So close, yet so far away

Who can ever fault New Zealand for sticking to its guns against Fiji in the final of the Commonwealth Games rugby sevens yesterday?

They knew they had to, to stop Fiji.

It wasn’t a flashy game at all.

For Fijian fans, that would be reserved for the semi-final where we defeated South Africa in ruthless fashion.

The final lacked excitement for us.

However, in the end, New Zealand played smart rugby to outwit, and out muscle Fiji.

They obviously were under strict orders to nullify the effectiveness of our halves of Jerry Tuwai and Amenoni Nasilasila.

The irony was that in the end, the Kiwis gave one back to us, limiting the breakdowns and offsetting our sliding defence.

It effectively nullified the great effort in the breakdowns we employed against the Blitzbokkes in the semi-final.

New Zealand starved us of possession, frustrated us and played down the clock to topple Fiji and win gold at the Commonwealth Games. The 0-14 loss hurt us yesterday.

Commonwealth gold continues to elude us.

However, national coach Gareth Baber has time to reflect on this event to chart our path forward for the rest of the World Rugby Sevens Series and to the 7s World Cup.

Sceptics will no doubt insist we had this within our reach.

In the end though, a better game plan proved to be our downfall.

The Commonwealth Games has ended.

Team Fiji returns home today with a gold medal, a silver and two bronze medals.

The medallists are Eileen Cikamatana (gold) in weight-lifting, silver to the Fiji men’s 7s team, bronze medals to boxer Winston Hill and weight-lifter Apolonia Vaivai.

Chef de mission Patrick Bower commended the athletes saying Fiji performed above expectation.

“I am happy,” he said.

“Even though we came with a big contingent, some sports performed very well and some needed to improve on their performance. We will go back and review our performance and see where we can improve to prepare well for the next games.”

Sports Minister Laisenia Tuitubou thanked Government for helping Team Fiji and also the athletes for standing up against some of the best countries in the Commonwealth.

The onus is now on the various sporting bodies to set the base for our next assault in four years time!

Work must start now on our plans.

The goal must be to win more medals and not just make up the numbers.

That means ensuring our athletes are focused and supported on long-term goals.

Congratulations are certainly in order for all our medal winners.

Go Fiji, go.