HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens 2019

Mighty escape for Fijians

Fiji's Livai Ikanikoda evading his South African opponents to score a try in their Pool A match yesterday at the National Stadium. While they lost 17-7, Fiji were spared the blushes as surprise side Scotland had slumped to Canada 33-10 earlier.
Fiji's Livai Ikanikoda evading his South African opponents to score a try in their Pool A match yesterday at the National Stadium. While they lost 17-7, Fiji were spared the blushes as surprise side Scotland had slumped to Canada 33-10 earlier.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Holders lose to Scotland and S. Africa but are spared early exit after former fall to Canada

For about three hours yesterday, defending HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens champions Fiji were teetering towards an unthinkable failure.

After a shock 19-12 loss to Scotland in their second Pool A game, the Fijians needed to beat reigning Sevens World Series champions South Africa in their final game to ensure passage into today's Cup quarter-finals.

But they were given a get-out-of-jail card before even taking to the pitch, as the Scots crashed to a 33-10 defeat by Canada, who were bottom and had lost their previous two games (to Fiji and South Africa) by an 86-12 aggregate.

The Pacific Islanders went on to lose 17-7 to the Blitzboks but progressed to the quarter-finals by virtue of a superior points difference to Scotland (21 to -42).

Fiji coach Gareth Baber admitted he was surprised to see Scotland fail to capitalise on their strong position but noted that Canada are a "good side" .

Scotland coach John Dalziel, meanwhile, did not hide his frustrations as he lambasted his players in the tunnel, following the Canada defeat."We were really, really poor in almost everything we did," he said.

  • TODAY’S MATCHES

    CUP

    Quarter-finals: South Africa v Samoa (11.30am) USA v Argentina (11.52am) New Zealand v Fiji (12.14pm) Australia v England (12.36pm) 

    Semi-finals (from 3.50pm)

    Final (7pm)

"We talked a lot about not falling at feet and we gave them too many opportunities to get hands on ball. And we're a passing team but we just didn't let the ball do any work today."

Fiji, who are second in the Sevens Series standings with 123 points, seven behind leaders the United States, will be without star player Jerry Tuwai though. He picked up a hamstring injury within two minutes of the first game, a 50-12 win over Canada.

Tuwai may be his team's "most influential player" but Welshman Baber remained confident. He said: "They won (the Hong Kong Sevens) last weekend, so they're obviously not far from their best.

"But it's a mental game, and the big thing is to remind them what they can achieve and when they achieved it, and link that to their physical recovery and show them that come tomorrow morning, they can be in a different space."

Fiji captain Paula Dranisinukula said they needed to improve how they contested the ball from kickoff, as well as their one-on-one tackles in defence.

"We just have to focus on tomorrow and forget what happened today," he said. "Tomorrow will be another day of rugby with its own challenges, and the boys will be there to get on with the task."

Waiting for them in the quarter-final are New Zealand, who pulled off a stunning 26-22 comeback win over Samoa in Pool D, after trailing 17-5 at half-time. Tries by Tim Mikkelson and Akuila Rokolisoa in the final two minutes of the match swung the tie in the All Blacks Sevens' favour.

The US also booked their spot in the final eight, winning all three of their Pool C matches against England (22-7), Wales (31-12) and Kenya (17-14). They play Argentina.

Australia take on England while South Africa face Samoa in the other quarter-final ties.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 14, 2019, with the headline 'Mighty escape for Fijians'. Print Edition | Subscribe