Rio 2016: Britain settle for silver in rugby sevens after Fiji masterclass sees them take gold

Fiji grabbed their first ever Olympic gold after blowing Team GB away

Matt Gatward
Rio de Janeiro
Thursday 11 August 2016 23:53
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Great Britain’s impressive run in the Rugby 7s was brought to a crashing halt at the final hurdle by Fiji in the final on Thursday night when they were comprehensively beaten 43-7 at the Deodoro Stadium here in Rio.

Fiji gave a masterclass in handling, off-loading, side-stepping, support play, running lines and brute strength to win gold - their first Olympic medal of any colour.

Defeat came with the non-too shabby consolation of silver – Britain’s third of the day – and they could be proud of their efforts in the inaugural Olympic 7s tournament in which they beat New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa along the way. The bruising beating of the Boks, 7-5 in the semi-final earlier in the day, may have come back to bite them in the final. But, regardless, Fiji on this form would have beaten a fit as a fiddle 15-man team.

It may be some consolation to GB – but probably not – that at least one Briton will have a gold medal around his neck tomorrow: Fiji’s head coach is Ben Ryan, the former England boss from Wimbledon.

It has been some journey for GB. Eight years ago, under Ryan, they lost every game at the Adelaide Sevens. Here, they lost just one. This hammering will hurt but the progress is startling.

Fiji started magnificently, bouncing off GB tackles for fun. It was like running into a series of moving buses for captain Tom Mitchell and co and the World Series champions went 5-0 up when Osea Kolinisau dived over in the corner. With four minutes on the clock Jerry Tuwai added another down the right wing, which was converted. 12-0 and GB had hardly touched the ball.

A superb Mitchell tackle stopped the man-mountain Leone Nakarawa from scoring a third but it was only delaying Fiji. On seven minutes Jasa Veremalua touched down in the right corner and GB were 17-0 to the bad. Nakarawa added another from the restart and there was still over a minute on the clock … in the first half.

Vatemo Ravouvou then burst through some more limp GB tackling and stormed to the line to score. The conversion made it 29-0 at the break. It was as if Fiji had been born to play 7s, while GB are still learning the trade. Which is pretty much how it is.

GB made wholesale changes at half-time and they plugged the Fijian dam…for all of four minutes, which by first-half standards was good, until Josua Tuisova went over after some brilliant Fijian interplay.

Dan Norton grabbed a try for GB, touching down in the left corner to make it 36-7 but the game was long gone the way of the South Sea Islanders whose fans sang, waved flags and danced in the stands. It was hard not to admire Fiji’s whole joyful approach.

Mata Viliame iced the Fijian cake that didn’t need icing with another try in the dying moments. The whistle went, the Fijians embraced and GB hit the turf, thoroughly beaten.

Earlier in the day, Fiji had beaten Japan 20-5 in their semi-final and GB edged South Africa in a tight semi-final of one try each – Britain’s conversion the difference. Kyle Brown put the Boks ahead in the first half but Dan Norton with some dazzling footwork broke the line and scored under the posts in the second half. A brilliant late tackle from Marcus Watson, brother of England’s 15-aside team, Anthony, secured the win – and ultimately the silver medal.

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