Fiji were crowned champions of the HSBC London Sevens for the second year running after a thrilling 43-7 victory over Australia on Sunday.
As well as taking home the coveted silverware, Fiji also celebrated earning qualification to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Twickenham this weekend after guaranteeing a top four finish on this season’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Fiji will be joined in Tokyo by USA and New Zealand who also booked their spots at the 2020 Olympic Games this weekend, alongside Japan who were awarded automatic qualification due to host nation status.
South Africa, who sit in fourth position, will need to take to the field of play at the HSBC Paris Sevens next weekend to officially qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Fiji now lead in the standings with 164 points, followed by USA (162), New Zealand (143) and South Africa (131), with this weekend’s hosts England ranked fifth with 109 points.
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In front of 85,471 fans across the weekend at a the iconic Twickenham Stadium, Australia and Fiji lined up against each other in what was their fifth Cup final meeting in the history of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Vilimoni Botitu set Fiji off to a flyer and a steal from the restart ended with Aminiasi Tuimaba taking two Australians over the line with him.
Australia simply had no answer to Fiji’s passing with sublime offloading paving the way for Tuimaba to complete his hat-trick before the break.
Joe Pincus gave Australia brief hope but a line-out error enabled Josua Vakurunabili to pile over and restart the procession. Alasio Naduva flew over in the corner then powered through for Fiji’s seventh try of a spectacular finale.
Commenting on his team’s gold medal win, Fiji Head Coach Gareth Baber said: “Obviously we found it tough in the first four or five minutes when Australia put something in – we knew they’re a good side and a tough side to play against – so we knew that we needed to get some scores on the board, and we did it with some style.”
On back-to-back HSBC London Sevens wins and securing Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification, Baber added: “It’s not just down to the boys and the staff who are here but it’s down to everyone back home in Fiji too. The supporters here have been fantastic all weekend – we thank them all and we hope that they continue to do it.”
The HSBC Player of the Final, Meli Derenalagi, commented: “We had lots of work-ons from day one so we tried to improve on day two and our main focus to come and win.
“All the supporters from around the world uplift us and motivate us to come and give our best.”
Australia’s day began with a thrilling success against South Africa in a quarter-final that spawned five first-half tries.
Henry Hutchinson and Ben O’Donnell struck after the interval to see Australia home 29-22.
Mick McGrath’s two early tries threatened a huge upset for Ireland against Fiji in their last-eight meeting but 28 unanswered points tipped the scales.
The Irish refused to lie down, though, as Jordan Conroy and Ian Fitzpatrick brought them back into contention.
Billy Dardis’ trip to the sin-bin proved pivotal as Asaeli Tuivuaka drove down the line to ensure Fiji progressed.