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A nail-biting 7s display

Kameli Rakoko
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

TWO heart-stopping matches is not what the doctor might have prescribed for heart patients but that's how Fiji mesmerised millions of sevens fans watching the Hong Kong Sevens final on Sunday night.

The Hong Kong Stadium was packed to the brim and there was a record number of television broadcasters all over the world watching this great sporting spectacle.

The Nemani Nagusa-captained Fiji sevens team captured the Hong Kong title for the second time in two years and it was also Fiji's second sevens title win in the 20-12/20-13 HSBC IRB Sevens World Series - the only team to have done so.

Down 14-0 in the final moments of the first half against New Zealand, Samisoni Viriviri burst past to score before half-time.

Fiji scored again in the opening minutes of the second-half and continued the onslaught to bag 33 unanswered points to beat the Kiwis 33-14.

The way the game was won drives home the point what national sevens coach Alivereti Dere is trying to bring back into our sevens rugby.

The free flowing game, uncluttered by too much commitment into body contact.

With the whole width of the field to play in, players spend most of the time playing fifteen men rugby all around the paddock.

In the first-half against New Zealand Fiji's attackers were running straight into tackles and not creating open spaces.

A couple of our Fiji tacklers were bouncing off the big thighs of Kiwi bulldozer Pat Lam who ran through our defence to score.

In our attack we were killing the ball and not keeping it alive.

This point was emphasised by Dere at half-time and the players quickly changed tactics.

What happened after that was miraculous and our strength is running and we played to our strength running wild, changing pace, giving more chances of attack and only going to ground to form a ruck as a last resort.

The Samoans physical style under this new coach is not doing them any good and they ended up with more injuries to their players.

They played a physical game against England and won 28-0 running through tackles in Friday's first pool game.

But they were shut out by Pedro Leal's Portugal who are in the same pool as Fiji this weekend in Japan.

Portugal is getting to be many people's other favourite sevens team with the veteran Leal, who had played in Waisale Serevi's era, still going strong.

They have a bunch of work-horses doing the basics right and a smiling try-scoring winger.

The kicking skills of Leal has seen them go past formidable opponents.

Meanwhile, Fiji's Leone Nakarawa proved his worth by winning balls in the lineouts and inspiring his players in contesting kickoffs.

He used his height well by making overhead passes to set up the runners to score tries.

In his first Hong Kong tournament he has been honoured by being named with Ilai Tinai in the Hong Kong Sevens Dream Team.

We may have lost Levani Botia but Jasa Veremalua's speed and ball-winning skills makes him a frontrunner for the hooker's berth for the Rugby Sevens World Cup.

We did not really miss Joji Raqamate as Ilai Tinai was there to be a fulltime playmaker.

When Ratu Kitione Vesikula was national sevens coach, another player of the same quality as Serevi played for Rewa and was outstanding in the sevens tournaments and rugby fans and experts urged him to include him in the national sevens team.

But Tukiti said there cannot be two Serevis or two playmakers in one team, only one.

Tinai took over where Raqamate left and even added an extra dimension in his tackling and was quite physical about it.

Fiji was lucky that the referee in the final against Wales only awarded a yellow card and not a red card against Tinai in that spear tackle.

The tackle was quite vicious and the Welsh player hit the ground head first.

It was Fiji's day in Hong Kong and the influence of Serevi's wizardry cast spells over the referees and linesmen and off course the prayers of Fijian fans back home.

In the final Wales stunned the Fijians with three tries in the first-half.

But Dere later said that they were still riding with the big win against New Zealand in the semi-finals and he had to wake them up at halftime.

However, it was super substitute Osea Kolinisau who scored three tries that mesmerised the Welsh.

Wales were influenced by a letter written to them by a fellow player Ifan, who broke his neck and may never play rugby again.

The Welsh players had Ifan written on their wristbands and the tryscorers would always kiss it whenever they scored.

The way the Fijians kept coming back after being down 14-0 and 19-0 speaks volumes of the character of this team.

Obviously the influence of Tomasi Cama and Waisale Serevi, Dere's former Nabua and Fiji teammates had rubbed onto the players especially the new boys.

Rugby pundits say that this was the most inexperienced team to win in Hong Kong.

But add the experiences of Serevi and Cama and the boys proved they have been there all along.

Apart from that Fiji's high scoring performances right up to the final and keeping Hong Kong scoreless says a lot to their improved defence.

It augurs well for our RWC 7s campaign and it has been said that this will be the last world cup sevens because the Olympic Games now includes Sevens Rugby. Dere's achievement and the assistance of Cama and Serevi is a tool that Fiji should definitely carry to Russia to win the Melrose Cup and bring it home for good.

It is also the winning formula that we have to carry with us to win our first Gold Medal in the full version of the Olympic Games. The ball is on Fiji Rugby Union's court.

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