New Zealand and Fiji qualify for gold medal match at Tokyo Olympics
Fiji will have to beat New Zealand if they are to defend their Olympic gold medal after both teams qualified for the Tokyo Olympics sevens final on Wednesday.
The two sides will play in the tournament’s gold medal match after dispatching Great Britain and Argentina, both of whom will compete for the bronze medal, in the semi-finals.
First up was New Zealand, who opened the semi-finals with a clinical tactical display to comprehensively defeat Great Britain 29-7.
The All Blacks Sevens looked composed, disciplined and accurate in the opening passage of play as they held onto the ball for the first 2 minutes and 15 seconds as they patiently built their way up the park from the kick-off.
The Kiwis were rewarded when captain Scott Curry strolled over from close range, but Great Britain hit back almost immediately when veteran speedster Dan Norton breached the New Zealand defence to score from well inside his own half.
A couple of infringements by Great Britain undid all the pressure they applied on New Zealand in the wake of Norton’s try, though, as Andrew Knewstubb booted the Kiwis into British territory as half-time loomed on the horizon.
Some more patient build-up play worked well for the All Blacks Sevens was followed by Sione Molia taking on the defence with two hands on the ball, which sucked in two British defenders on the right-hand flank.
That allowed Molia to free up Regan Ware on the wing, and the Waikato man had enough pace to score after the half-time siren sounded, although he was dangerously close to coming into contact with the dead ball line in his dive.
The try stood, though, so New Zealand took a seven-point advantage into the break.
A messy kick-off to begin the second half handed the Kiwis a scrum feed on the British 22, but a lack of precision at the breakdown enabled Great Britain to snaffle the ball back and stifle New Zealand’s attack.
The Brits then cleared the ball, but it bounced into touch, which presumably wasn’t what they intended as it gave New Zealand a chance to strike again from a lineout near halfway.
That they did, and, although it looked scrappy at times, the Kiwis managed to fling the ball out wide to Ware, who crashed over in the left-hand corner to score his second.
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Knewstubb’s sideline conversion rattled the uprights, but that counted for little as the Canterbury playmaker put the ball on a dime from the re-start as it landed right into the arms of the charging Dylan Collier, who cantered in over the tryline to extend his side’s lead.
Down 24-7 with only a couple of minutes left to play, Great Britain started to get desperate with ball in hand, but that, and the injection of New Zealand’s reserve players, forced errors and allowed Curry to crash over late in the game to seal the victory.
That sets up a blockbuster gold medal clash against Fiji, who overcame a staunch Argentine outfit to claim a 26-14 semi-final victory.
Fiji, the reigning Olympic champions, looked to apply pressure on the Argentines from the offset, but the South Americans matched the intensity of Fiji’s play on defence in the opening minutes of the contest.
That wasn’t enough to stop Sireli Maqala from opening the scoring just moments later, though, as he ploughed through and fended off three opposition players to storm over the tryline in the third minute.
That try was indicative of Fiji’s immense power with ball in hand, which played a part in their second try which came through Meli Derenalagi on the back of an Argentine mistake deep in their own half.
In what was their first real attacking chance inside Fijian territory, Argentina cut the lead to just five points when their star man Marcos Moneta pierced Fiji’s defensive line to sear in under the posts.
A well-claimed re-start gifted Argentina another opportunity to score just as the clock ticked towards half-time, and they did so on the back of some patience but effective build-up play that put Ignacio Mendy over in the left-hand corner.
New Zealand Rugby have announced a new six-year sponsorship deal with INEOS that will see the British petrochemical firm’s logo appear on the kits of their national teams. #AllBlacks https://t.co/LvWQJkibzR
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 28, 2021
Santiago Mare’s sideline conversion gave Argentina an unlikely two-point lead at the break, and that buffer threatened to grow when the Argentines strongly challenged the Fijian defence early in the second half.
Fiji withstood Argentina’s pressure, though, and hit them with a blistering counter-attack that was capped off by Jiuta Wainiqolo to give his side the lead back.
The injection of Semi Radradra helped Fiji extend their lead as the XVs star shoved a defender away with his first touch of the ball to open some space which he exploited superbly to score under the posts.
That gave Fiji a 12-point lead with a minute-and-a-half to play, which proved to be enough for the Pacific Island nation as Argentina blew their final attacking chance to salvage the game with a knock on in the dying stages.
A kick to touch on the full-time siren following the ensuing scrum feed cemented Fiji’s place in the Olympic final as they take one step closer to claiming back-to-back gold medals.
The Olympic final between Fiji and New Zealand is scheduled to kick-off at 6pm local time, while the bronze medal match will get underway half an hour beforehand.
Meanwhile, in the lower-ranking play-offs, a Carlin Isles try on the stroke of full-time ensured the United States a last-gasp 21-14 victory over their North American neighbours Canada to put them in the fifth place play-off match.
There they will face South Africa, who survived a second half comeback by Australia to bounce back from their surprise quarter-final loss to Argentina to win 22-19.
In the bottom half of the draw, South Korea put up a good fight against Japan but eventually went down 31-19 in the 11th place play-off, while Kenya finished in ninth place after whitewashing Ireland 22-0 to avenge for their Group C defeat.
New Zealand 29 (Tries to Scott Curry (2), Regan Ware (2), Dylan Collier; 2 conversions to Andrew Knewstubb)
Great Britain 7 (Try to Dan Norton; conversion Dan Bibby)
Fiji 26 (Tries to Sireli Maqala, Meli Derenalagi, Jiuta Wainiqolo, Semi Radradra; conversion to Napolioni Bolaca, Jerry Tuwai, Vilimoni Botitu)
Argentina 14 (Tries to Marcos Moneta, Ignacio Moneta; 2 conversions to Santiago Mare)
5th-8th Place Semi-Finals:
USA 21 (Tries to Carlin Isles (2), Martin Iosefo; 3 conversions to Madison Hughes)
Canada 14 (Tries to Harry Jones, Justin Douglas; 2 conversions to Nathan Hirayama)
South Africa 22 (Tries to Siviwe Soyizwapi, Ronald Brown (2), JC Pretorius; conversion to Justin Geduld)
Australia 19 (Tries to Lachie Miller, Josh Turner, Maurice Longbottom; conversion to Miller, conversion to Longbottom)
9th Place Match:
Kenya 22 (Tries to Johnstone Olindi, Jacob Ojee, Willy Ambaka, Daniel Taabu; conversion to Ojee)
11th Place Match:
Japan 31 (Tries to Lote Tuqiri, Masakatsu Hikosaka, Ryoto Kano, Chihito Matsui, Kazushi Hano; 3 conversion to Kano)
South Korea 19 (Tries to Andre Jin Coquillard, Jeongmin Jang, Yeon Sik Jeong; 2 conversions to Coquillard)
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