Fiji Airways Fijian 7s side has been crowned the 2018/19 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions, beating USA in the Cup semi-final to secure a fourth world title this morning.
Gareth Baber’s outfit, who went into this last stop of the series two points ahead of the USA, marched on to cap their series-clinching day with the tournament victory after beating New Zealand 35-24 in the Cup final.
The national team was unstoppable from day one, thumping England 52-14 in their opening match, then defeated Argentina 40-26 before edging Ireland 40-5 in the final pool match.
They again started the second day of the tournament on a high note. A 24-5 win over France in the quarterfinal was enough for the side to march into the semis against USA. Fiji stood tall against the Americans as they defeated them 33-14 to setup a final encounter against arch rivals New Zealand.
Nothing was there to stop the super form of the Fijians as they scored five tries and beat Kiwis 35-24 in the final. Napolioni Ratu started in the game, played a vital role and scored two tries. He then later scooped the player of the final award.
“Last year we came here and we were further in front but we did not have the wherewithal to finish it off. That was quite painful,” said head coach Baber, who received the UL Mark of Excellence after the Cup final for the season’s work.
“I thought that the back end of the season, carrying on from Hong Kong with Singapore, London last week and to round it off as we did, is pretty special. It’s all credit to everybody back home in Fiji, everybody who has supported us and kept patient. But, most of all to the staff and the quality outfit that we have playing for us.”
Captain Paula Dranisinukula said his message on day two of the tournament was simple.
“I just want to thank the lord for giving us the strength through-out the tournament. In that hurdle I told the boys, if we want to be a history maker don’t let this moment go, I told them just give all for another seven minutes against USA and we will be champions.”
Fiji finished on top of the World Rugby Sevens Series standings with 186 points, 9 points clear to second placed USA whereas New Zealand is in third place with 162 points.
It was not over yet for our national side – as MeIi Derenalagi was awarded the rookie player of the year at the World Rugby farewell function in Paris.
Filimoni Botitu was named the DHL impact player of the year while Jerry Tuwai, Aminiasi Tuimaba together with Botitu and Derenalagi were named in the Dream Team of the year.