Hong Kong - Fiji are within striking distance of the Rugby Sevens series
championship after their fifth consecutive victory in Hong Kong on Sunday,
storming a determined but outmuscled France 21-7.
The defending tournament champions opened the scoring in the fifth
minute when a quick pass behind from Aminasi Tuiamba 20 metres from the
try line set up an opportunity for Vilimoni Botitu to weave around Remi
Tuiamba followed with a try of his own for Fiji to lead 14-0 at the
break before a yellow card for Josua Vakurunabili saw them concede a
But the 10th-ranked French could not press the advantage and found
themselves back on the defensive even before a high tackle send-off for
Tavite Veredamu levelled the playing field.
Tuiamba was sent off with 90 seconds to spare, two minutes after his
second try, in a match where the Fijians made full use of their strength
Fiji's reliable band of supporters, celebrating the country's 19th
overall win in Hong Kong, cheered and sang in the north stand long after
their team had left the championship podium.
The side came into the final after spoiling the United States' hopes
of a maiden Hong Kong Sevens championship with a 28-19 semis win over
the series leaders, recovering their customary precision after a scrappy
quarter-finals win over Argentina.
The US beat Samoa to third place without injured captain Madison
Hughes. They will stay number one on the standings following their Vegas
win and four other finals appearances, with Fiji to leapfrog New
Zealand into second.
France, continuing the form that saw them runners-up in Vancouver
last month, knocked out Samoa to book their first ever finals appearance
in Hong Kong after earlier dashing the All Blacks' chances in a shock
14-12 quarter-final win.
New Zealand lost to Argentina 21-14 in the fifth-place plate final
when Kurt Baker was sent off in the 13th minute, giving Matias Osadczuk a
crucial opening after the final horn.
Japan meanwhile earned a temporary reprieve from their relegation
threat with a 10th place finish, losing 26-24 to Scotland in the bowl
Ireland will join the
world tour next year after a 28-7 win over Hong Kong -- a second
disappointment for the hometown side after their 2016 qualifying finals
Fans cheered and waved the city's red and white bauhinia flag from
all corners of the stadium but the much-improved squad's golden run
through the tournament ended when Jordan Conroy bagged the winners'
third try in the first minute after the break.
Tom McQueen made the home team's solitary try soon after Gregory O'Shea was sin-binned for rough conduct in the second half.
"It's been a long and hard road. I think that we all just stood on
the pitch there and couldn't move," said Ireland captain Billy Dardis
after the win.
"We're just speechless... It won't sink in for a couple of weeks."