Editorial comment: So close yet so far
24 July, 2018, 9:16 am
MOST Fijian fans will certainly not be too keen to echo the line that we win some and we lose some.
Not when it comes to 7s rugby. Certainly not when it comes to our quality packed side to the 7s Rugby World Cup in San Francisco at the weekend.
For all intents and purposes, as far as fans were concerned, there was no two ways about it at all. We were actually designed to win the top title.
We had the players to turn heads. We had muscle, a frightening combination, composure and pace to burn.
In fact we basically had the title in the bag. We just had to show up and claim it!
New Zealand had other ideas though. Japan, brimming with Fijians, stretched us to the limit. They nullified our effectiveness in broken play and dominated the first spell of our first game on Saturday.
Their big men ran straight at us, tore into our defensive wall, and their back line ran probing lines through us. Then national coach Gareth Baber sent in the cavalry in the second spell and we settled down.
That’s when we taught the Japanese a lesson in sevens rugby and why we were top runners. Against Argentina in the quarter-finals, we were simply too good.
We were near perfect in attack and our defensive shape held up well against the Argentines. Our passes stuck like glue and we certainly lived up to former national coach Ben Ryan’s now catchy line ‘beautiful chaos’.
In the chaos of heavy traffic against the Argentines, our short passes from seemingly near impossible angles were caught and momentum maintained, ending up with tries. You couldn’t help but wonder whether someone carried a tube of glue onto the field.
The semi-final clash was supposed to be a thriller yesterday morning. The signs were all there. We were on fire. Turn up we did! But switched off we were!
The Kiwis turned up for a party that turned us into spectators eventually.
We couldn’t function effectively against a Kiwi game-plan that kept the ball deep inside our own half.
We fell short against a Kiwi defensive shape that nullified our attacks, chewed up the clock, and contested the breakdowns. In the end, we found ourselves wanting against a Kiwi side that wasn’t really packed with the quality of our side.
Most importantly, they functioned as a unit, stuck to their game plan, and believed in themselves to win in the end. The question we have to now ask is where to from here?
Lest we forget, other big name sides, brimming with superstars such as the South African Blitzbokke and England also fell by the wayside. There are definitely no minnows in the abbreviated version of the sport any more. But we must do a bit of soul searching to get to the bottom of what went wrong, before we start preparations for the next big one, which is to defend our title at the Olympic Games in Japan in 2020.
Congratulations are in order for New Zealand, the 2018 world champions.