Sport: Fiji stay in title race after Tokyo Sevens triumph
Fiji closes the gap on the Rugby Sevens World Series leaders after victory in the Tokyo tournament.
Fiji has closed the gap on the Rugby Sevens World Series leaders after a stunning victory in the Tokyo tournament.
The Fijians beat South Africa 33-26 in the final, having upset New Zealand 17-12 in the semis to give it the perfect momentum heading into Hong Kong.
Vinnie Wylie reports.
Fiji coach Ben Ryan was pleased with his side's finish in Tokyo after not quite hitting their straps on day one.
BEN RYAN: It's good to get on the podium again and the boys played really well today. They started slowly yesterday but when they want to turn up and want to turn it on they're not an impossible team to stop but they're pretty hard to stop. You can see what happens when you get the boys together and they start winning things, it's been terrific.
Captain Osea Kolinisau says the result keeps them well in the overall title race.
OSEA KOLINISAU: Like we said in the first tournament, our goal this season is to win the series and we're just closing up the points. We hope to try and improve on our mistakes and take one game at a time at Hong Kong.
The top three countries have each won two World Series legs this season with third-placed Fiji up to 95 points, 21 behind new leaders South Africa. Samoa remain in sixth place overall, despite failing to make it out of the group stages. Viliamu Punivalu's side were beaten by the USA and Fiji on day one and defeats against Japan and Argentina on day two ensured a tournament to forget.
The World Series shifts to Hong Kong this weekend, where Fiji are the defending champions. Alongside the main draw American Samoa and the Cook Islands are involved in a 12-team qualifier, from which the overall winner will earn a permanent place on next year's World Series. The Cook Islands team will be missing long-time skipper Ash Drake and fellow veteran Koiatu Koiatu because of work commitments. The head coach Chad Tuoro says it's a simple, albeit difficult, equation.
CHAD TUORO: You've got to be in to win and that's just shown by a lot of the other countries that are involved in our qualifying tournament putting a lot of resources behind them. Japan have made a couple of national players of their fifteens team available and they're playing this weekend over in Tokyo Sevens, and you've got Russia [and] Zimbabwe who are either semi professional, if not full-time, as well as Hong Kong who went professional about halfway through last year in preparation for this.
Meanwhile the secretary of the American Samoa Rugby Union, Monique Solofa, says there's a new look to the Talavalu team.
MONIQUE SOLOFA: We have a young team - different from the team that qualified in Fiji - but we have a lot of hope and promise in these young players and can guarantee that when they take that field they take all of American Samoa with them onto the field and off the field and they know that they will give 100 percent performance.
Both tournaments get underway on Friday.
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