Fiji surge to sevens lead after second title

Pio Tuwai diving for a try as Garrett Bender of the US fails to stop him in their semi-final. Fiji beat Australia in the Las Vegas final.
Pio Tuwai diving for a try as Garrett Bender of the US fails to stop him in their semi-final. Fiji beat Australia in the Las Vegas final.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LAS VEGAS • Reigning World Series champions Fiji fought back from a 0-15 half-time deficit with a scintillating display of counter-attacking rugby, to beat Australia 21-15 in the final of the Las Vegas Sevens on Sunday.

Their second tournament win of the season sent Fiji clear at the top of the series standings and was a timely boost for the Pacific island nation, where last month Cyclone Winston left at least 42 people dead and more than 62,000 homeless.

On a blustery day at the Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Australia dominated territorially right from the start and Sam Myers capped off a wave of attacks when he crossed the line from the left to put his team in front.

Fiji were left short-handed after a dangerous tip tackle and the Wallabies took full advantage as first Ed Jenkins powered down the left wing to score and then Cameron Clark cut through to follow suit to establish a half-time lead of 15-0.

Playing into the wind, the Fijians finally put points on the board when Kitione Taliga, off the bench, ran the entire length of the field to score under the posts.

As the Fijians built much-needed momentum, Taliga scored again after another brilliant counter-attack to reduce the deficit to 14-15.

Australia seemed set for another score soon after but Wallaby fly-half Quade Cooper lost possession just short of the try line and Fiji were once again ruthless on the counter-attack as Savenaca Rawaca stormed down the right to make it 21-15.

"The wind made it an awful game of rugby but in the second half we fought back and I'm really proud of the boys to get a win in the conditions," said Fiji's English coach Ben Ryan, who dedicated the win to victims of the cyclone. "We've had a hard time with the cyclone, people have lost their livelihoods. I hope we put a smile on some people's faces."

South Africa, who paid a steep price for some dirty play against Australia in the last four, outclassed the United States 21-10 in the third-place play-off.

Fiji lead the series with 91 points, five points clear of South Africa, with New Zealand third on 82 after the fifth stop on the 10-tournament circuit.

The World Series is providing a showcase for rugby sevens as it prepares for its debut at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline 'Fiji surge to sevens lead after second title'. Print Edition | Subscribe