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Fiji claim ‘special’ win over New Zealand with stunning sideline conversion

By Finn Morton
Fiji group together before taking on New Zealand at the SVNS Series Grand Final in Madrid. Picture: World Rugby.

SVNS Series veteran Jerry Tuwai watched on from the bench at Madrid’s Civitas Metropolitano as teammate Iowane Teba lined up a conversion from the left touchline. With time up on the clock, Teba had a chance to win it for Fiji after they’d levelled the scores at 26-all against New Zealand.

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It was a seesawing battle with both teams scoring four tries each, and it was only fitting that this blockbuster clash between two great rivals would come right down to the wire. But what happened next made it all the more special.

Teba received the ball from try scorer Ponepati Loganimasi with the shot clock running dangerously close to the dreaded naught, but the goal-kicker didn’t look stressed. It was almost a surprise to see how casually Teba lined up the shot.

There must’ve only been five seconds or so left before the shot clock expired when Teba struck his right foot through the ball. The ball sailed towards the posts in Madrid and only just managed to go over.

From practically right on top of the left sideline, Teba had won it for Fiji. While the usual SVNS Series heavyweights have struggled for consistency this season, this nail-biting win over the Hong Kong China and Singapore Cup winners is a massive sign of intent.

“Thank God for that. I think it’s very special. We’ve been losing for a long time and everyone has been disappointed in Fiji – families and especially us, we’ve been disappointed about the performance in the past (tournaments),” veteran Jerry Tuwai told RugbyPass.

“To win against a very good team, a team that has been performing in the Series like New Zealand, it’s a big thing for us.

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“It shows us that we’re doing some smart things right and it pushes us to become better players and a good team for the next game.”

Fresh off their Cup final triumph at Singapore’ National Stadium in early May, the All Blacks Sevens got off to an idyllic start in the Spanish capital with Moses Leo and Tepaea Cook Savage both scoring a try each inside the first four minutes.

While the Fijians hit back in the sixth minute their talented playmaker Waisea Nacuqu, New Zealand landed another telling blow with returning veteran Sam Dickson scoring just a minute later. The All Blacks Sevens held a commanding 19-7 lead at the break.

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But in the second term, Fiji showed plenty of “determination” and “heart” with Terio Tamani and a double to Ponepati Loganimasi seeing them level the scores at 26-all. Then, of course, there was that conversion from Teba.

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“It’s this Series… all the teams have just upgraded to a different level. All teams are good now. If you win or lose by small points, it’s nothing new because all teams are good,” Tuwai added.

“For us to win against New Zealand, it shows the determination and the love and the heart that we have.”

The Fiji players disappeared from the public view down the tunnel before grouping together for a huddle. Coach Osea Kolinisau did most of the talking, and Tuwai had a meaningful say as well, before they decided to take a seat.

They eventually walked up the rest of the tunnel and towards the changerooms as a team, but not before Tuwai stopped for a moment to talk about the match that was. It’s also a big week for Tuwai with the Olympic gold medallist taking the field for the first time in a while.

“For the past few tournaments I thought I was done, that’s me.

“I thought the LA Sevens last year was my last tournament.

“You have different plans but God has another plan for us and maybe this one and maybe the next big thing. I don’t know. Only God knows.”

Catch all of the SVNS Madrid action live and free on RugbyPass TV. To watch the Grand Final, register HERE.

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