Fiji produced a sevens masterclass to overwhelm Great Britain 43-7 in the men's sevens gold medal match at the Deodoro Stadium and write their names into the history books as their country's first ever Olympic medallists.
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions lived up to their billing as favourites to claim the first men's rugby Olympic medals in 92 years with tries from captain Osea Kolinisau, Jerry Tuwai, Jasa Veremalua, Leone Nakarawa, Vatemo Ravouvou, Josua Tuisova and Viliame Mata securing the victory.
The Flying Fijians had the crowd of more than 10,000 - including the Fiji Prime MInister Frank Bainimarama - on the edge of their seats with a scintillating display of rugby befitting the first men's sevens Olympic champions.
Fiji and Great Britain were joined on the podium by South Africa, who proved too strong for surprise semi-finalists Japan with Rosko Specman scoring a hat-trick in a 54-14 victory by the Blitzboks.
In the other play-off matches on the final day, New Zealand beat Argentina for fifth place, France overcame Australia for seventh place with USA beating Spain to ninth and Kenya finishing with a win over hosts Brazil to claim 11th.
With chants of ‘Fiji, Fiji, Fiji’ ringing out around the Deodoro Stadium it was the series champions who struck first, Leone Nakarawa and Semi Kunatani keeping the ball alive in the tackle and working it wide for captain Osea Kolinisau to score the opening try.
A second try quickly followed when Samisoni Viriviri broke through a tackle and fed Jerry Tuwai outside him for an easy run-in. It could have been three, but Nakarawa lost the ball a metre out in a tackle by Team GB captain Tom Mitchell.
The Flying Fijians then profited from two errors as first Team GB turned over the ball and Jasa Veremalua finished off the counter-attack and then Dan Norton failed to claim the restart and Nakarawa charged away for try number four.
It got even better for Fiji when Vatemo Ravouvou broke through a tackle and raced away for a fifth try of a first half in which Team GB were barely able to get their hands on the ball and blown away to trail 29-0 at the break.
There was no let up from the Fijians despite their dominance on the scoreboard and another turnover saw Veremalua break through and then selflessly pass back to Josua Tuisova to get his name on the scoreboard on an historic night for Fijian rugby.
Dan Norton ensured there would be no whitewash for Team GB, but it was fitting that the series champions had the final say in an emphatic victory with Viliame Mata adjudged to have grounded the ball late on to ensure the celebrations were even louder in the stadium and across the Pacific island nation.
BRONZE MEDAL MATCH
South Africa ended Japan’s dream of a bronze medal ending to their fairy tale run at the Olympic Games with an emphatic 54-14 defeat of Japan having punished any error with a run-in try from distance.
Juan de Jongh broke through the defence for the opening try and then, within a minute of Japan losing the impressive Teruya Goto to injury, his try celebration partner Rosko Specman added a second for South Africa.
Japan delighted their supporters with a try from Yusaku Kuwazuru, but Specman raced away again to give South Africa a commanding 21-7 lead at half-time. Japan hit back quickly after the break with a great run from Kazuhiro Goya, but once more South Africa had a response, through Cecil Afrika.
Africa added a second try and South Africa put the gloss on the victory with further tries for Justin Geldud, Specman – to complete his hat-trick – and Cheslin Kolbe. Japan, though, will return home as heroes after finishing an historic fourth with world champions New Zealand among their scalps.
FIFTH PLACE PLAY-OFF
New Zealand salvaged fifth place – and avoided losing four matches in the competition, something they have never done on the series – with a 17-14 defeat of Argentina.
Akira Ioane raced away for the only try of the first half and then Gillies Kaka stepped his way through the defence and gifted Tim Mikkelson a try with a pass in the in-goal area. It was the turn of the younger Ioane brother then with Rieko dancing his way to New Zealand’s third try.
Los Pumas Sevens had fought back from 21-0 to beat Australia in their last match, but there was to be no repeat performance despite late tries by Juan Imhoff and Matias Moroni.
SEVENTH PLACE PLAY-OFF
Henry Hutchison, the rookie of the year from the series, gave Australia the perfect start with an early try, but they then missed not one but two scoring opportunities, first Ed Jenkins making a double movement to get over the line and then Tom Cusack losing the ball inches from the line.
They were made to pay for those wasted opportunities as France captain Terry Bouhraoua, who scored a hat-trick against Australia in the first ever men’s Olympic sevens match, scored late in the first half and then veteran Julien Candelon scored after the break.
Captain Jenkins did score a second try for Australia with 40 seconds remaining but James Stannard was unable to add the conversion and Les Bleus held on for a 12-5 victory and seventh place overall.
SESSION FIVE REVIEW
Fiji made the perfect start when Vatemo Ravouvou broke round the side of the Japanese defence for the opening try, but he turned villain with a yellow card and Japan made the most of their man advantage with Teruya Goto powering over to tie the scores at 5-5.
An acrobatic dive from powerhouse Josua Tuisova ensured Fiji went into half-time ahead at 10-5 and they increased that advantage with tries by Semi Kunatani and Jerry Tuwai, the latter with Lomano Lemeki in the sin-bin for Japan.
Japan, the surprise package of the competition, battled to the finish but couldn’t deny Fiji a 20-5 win.
South Africa had lost their speedster Seabelo Senatla to injury, but in his absence Rosko Specman was showing his own pace by bursting through the Great Britain defence at will early on. It was a great flick of the floor by Phil Snyman that gave Kyle Brown a run-in for the only try of the first half.
The Blitzboks’ lead lasted less than minute as Team GB worked the ball wide and Dan Norton stepped inside Dylan Sage to race clear and under the posts, captain Mitchell crucially adding the conversion for a 7-5 lead.
Neither side were able to find another score so it was Great Britain celebrating at the final whistle.
FIFTH PLACE SEMI-FINALS
New Zealand have never lost four matches in a single tournament on the series and they avoided doing so on the Olympic stage only after second-half tries from brothers Akira and Rieko Ioane and Regan Ware’s second of the match secured a 24-19 win over France.
Ware had opened the scoring only for two tries by Stephen Parez to give Les Bleus a 12-5 half-time lead. The second half belonged to New Zealand, though, with France only able to manage a consolation try with time up through Sacha Valleau, a sevens gold medallist at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing two years ago.
The second semi-final was only decided in added time after Argentina staged a remarkable comeback from 21-0 down to beat Australia 26-21, Matias Moroni scoring the winning try just as he had to snatch victory against the USA on day one.
A brace of tries from Tom Cusack and another from Con Foley had put Australia in the driving seat, but Argentina captain Gaston Revol scored a try with time up in the first to give his side hope. Revol scored again early in the second and Moroni cut the deficit to two before his match-winning try.
NINTH PLACE PLAY-OFF
The USA had lost one of their speedsters Perry Baker to a calf injury after day two, but that just gave Carlin Isles more time on the pitch and the former sprinter responded with two run-ins from long-range.
Spain had scored the opening try through Pablo Fontes, a late injury replacement for Pablo Feijoo for the final day, but Isles and Danny Barrett put the Eagles Sevens ahead. Spain pulled it back to 12-12 through Angel Lopez’s try but further scores for Maka Unufe and Isles wrapped up the 24-12 victory.
11TH PLACE PLAY-OFF
Kenya had hopes of a medal when they arrived in Rio, not playing off for 11th place play-off but they ensured they finished their Olympic campaign with a first victory, Billy Odhiambo scoring a hat-trick in a 24-0 defeat of hosts Brazil.
Willy Ambaka was the other try scorer for Kenya as the hosts appeared to run out of steam. Brazil did think they had scored a try at the death through captain Lucas Duque, but the pass from his brother Moises was forward to the dismay of the home fans in the crowd.
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