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Fiji Claim First Title of 2020 Season in Sydney

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Fiji came out on top against South Africa for the second time in eight days, although this time their prize was not ninth place but a first HSBC Sydney Sevens title.

Both teams had been determined to bounce back from that disappointment in Hamilton and served up a Cup final every bit as thrilling as their last meeting in Singapore when Fiji had led 19-0 at half-time only for South Africa to storm back and triumph 21-19.

Fiji nearly had the dream start in their first Cup final of the season, but JC Pretorius and Selvyn Davids managed to hold Meli Derenalagi over the line. It would only be a temporary respite, though, because as the rain began to fall again the ball skewed out the side of a breakdown and Napolioni Bolaca reacted quickest to score the opening try.

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HSBC SYDNEY SEVENS

Fiji claim first title of season in Sydney

The smile was back on the faces of crowd favourites Fiji after they overcome a tight final with South Africa to win the HSBC Sydney Sevens for the first time.

03/02/2020 02:00
Fiji came out on top against South Africa for the second time in eight days, although this time their prize was not ninth place but a first HSBC Sydney Sevens title.Both teams had been determined to bounce back from that disappointment in Hamilton and served up a Cup final every bit as thrilling as their last meeting in Singapore when Fiji had led 19-0 at half-time only for South Africa to storm back and triumph 21-19.

Fiji nearly had the dream start in their first Cup final of the season, but JC Pretorius and Selvyn Davids managed to hold Meli Derenalagi over the line. It would only be a temporary respite, though, because as the rain began to fall again the ball skewed out the side of a breakdown and Napolioni Bolaca reacted quickest to score the opening try.

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A barnstorming run from Zain Davids created the momentum for Pretorius to score with Fiji suffering a double blow with Josua Vakurunabili yellow-carded for a tackle earlier in the move. Fiji managed to hold out in his absence and then increased their advantage when a powerful hand-off from Bolaca gave him the space to run-in his second of the final.

Zain Davids crossed for South Africa midway through the second half but his namesake Selvyn was unable to add the conversion, leaving the Dubai champions trailing by two points. They were unable to find another score, Fiji and their huge contingent of fans in the crowd able to celebrate after South Africa knocked on in their own 22 with the final play.

Fiji captain Derenalagi said: “First of all I would like to thank the almighty Lord for giving us the strength and the power to come and deliver what we have been planning.

“Before we entered the field the message I told my team was just to go out there, enjoy it and do the job. We delivered that and I want to thank the soldiers behind me for that great effort you saw here today.

“Shout out to all the fans here in Sydney for coming out in numbers and for supporting your national team – this win is for you too.”

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New Zealand still the lead the standings with 76 points after four of the 10 rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020, although now only by nine from South Africa. France are third on 56 points, just ahead of England (54) and Sydney champions Fiji (53).

The next round sees the teams head to a new stop in Los Angeles, home of the 2028 Olympic Games, at Dignity Health Sports Park from 29 February-1 March.

USA WIN BRONZE

A sub plot to the bronze final, delayed by more than 30 minutes due lightning in the area,  was whether Perry Baker or Carlin Isles would become the USA player to score 200 series tries, the former drawing level by running in the opening try before captain Ben Pinkelman and Naima Fuala’au made it 17-0 before Will Hendy scored with the final play of the first half. USA lost Stephen Tomasin to the sin-bin but his team-mates held firm in his absence and then just as it appeared that Isles was set for try 200 Dan Norton caught and hauled him into touch. Instead it was England who had the final say, Ollie Lindsay-Hague turning Isles inside out to cut the deficit to 17-10.

Earlier in the first semi-final, South Africa edged a titanic battle with USA to preserve their record of never having lost to their opponents at this stage. Pretorius sprinted down the touchline for the opening try after 23 seconds, but USA hit back and Pinkelman’s try looked like giving them the half-time lead until Selvyn Davids tied it at 12-12 with a late score. With the rain beginning to fall in Sydney, the score remained that way until midway through the second half when South Africa captain Stedman Gans burst through for what proved to be winner with the Sevens Eagles unable to find the score to force sudden-death extra-time.

Fiji have found their way back to the top of the tournament podium in Sydney, while New Zealand’s women have continued their 2019-20 golden run.

The Fijians were back to some of their best rugby this weekend, toppling Hamilton champions New Zealand in the pool stages on their way to securing their first title of the seaosn.

Two first half tries gave Fiji an early lead over South Africa before the Blitzboks mounted a late comeback.

Napolioni Baloca scored all of Fiji’s points and it was his sole conversion that ultimately proved the difference in the tournament final.