FIJI has created history by winning the country’s first ever Olympic medal — and what a medal it is.
Their Rugby Sevens team absolutely thrashed Great Britain 43-7 in the final to claim gold.
It’s taken Fiji 14 Olympic Games to finally pick up a medal, but it was worth the wait. Some players appeared to be crying on the bench in the final minutes, and the team formed a huddle at the end of the match, singing together in emotional scenes.
Commentator Mark Braybrook called it “the biggest day in Fiji’s sporting history”, and he couldn’t have been more right.
Fiji was the raging gold medal favourite heading into Rio after finishing atop the World Series earlier in the year, but the pressure clearly didn’t get to the players. They made their country proud, and they didn’t even need Jarryd Hayne’s help.
South Africa won bronze after they beat Japan in the play-off for third.
At the medal presentation ceremony, each of Fiji’s players knelt and clapped three times when receiving their bling to show respect to Great Britain’s Princess Anne, who was presenting. It was a gesture that saw them lauded for their class and humility in victory — something the Olympics is all about.
Fiji captain Osea Kolinisau led the defending Sevens World Series champions as they ruthlessly won the first Olympic rugby competition in 92 years.
He got the first of five first-half tries, two converted, for a 29-0 lead that a leaden-footed Britain never looked like matching.
“I’m a little bit lost for words. The boys were on another scale of phenomenal,” Fiji’s English coach Ben Ryan said.
“They were just stratospheric and they saved the best until last.
“They played some high-risk rugby there and they were outstanding and, hopefully, we showcased Fijian rugby and everybody who was watching, maybe even the British supporters, can have a smile. Just the way we wanted to play the game.
“It’s always been our plan for three years, get them back to number one, win world titles and then claim this first gold medal.”
In a sevens masterclass, the Fijians avoided contact and the long-pass game, putting faith in Ryan’s “no reward without risk” gameplan of off-loading to keep possession.
The Pacific islanders starved the British of the ball, competing successfully at every re-start and refusing to panic on the few occasions they threatened.
The outstanding Kolinisau got his side on the scoreboard, riding Tom Mitchell’s tackle to touch down in the corner.
Jerry Tuwai followed soon after with Britain’s defence failing to cope with the Pacific islanders’ off-loading brilliance.
Jasa Veremalua, Leone Nakarawa and Vatemo Ravouvou all crossed in quick succession, two conversions from skipper Kolinisau handing Fiji the mammoth 29-0 half-time lead.
Another Semi Kunatani off-load saw blockbusting Toulon winger Josua Tuisova go in under the posts, the British defence left clueless at their rivals’ cool, deft play.
Dan Norton claimed a consolation try but it was all about Fiji, their bench left in tears long before the game had ended.
Viliame Mata rubbed salt into the wounds with a seventh final try to the delight of the partisan crowd that included IOC president Thomas Bach, Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and Britain’s Princess Anne.
Australia lost 26-21 to Argentina and then 12-10 to France in the play-off pool to decide positions fifth through to eighth. Those disappointing results saw the Aussies finish eighth.