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Fiji built a massive lead and held on to beat New Zealand, 35-19, en route to the USA Sevens title Sunday at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. The Fijians went undefeated over the course of the three-day tournament, beating New Zealand in pool play as well.
That result was a little closer – 14-12. In the final, Fiji built a 28-0 second half lead, and they led 35-5 before letting in two late tries. New Zealand, decimated by injury before and during the tournament, did well to reach the final. The All Blacks have now lost four finals in a row on Americans soil, including five of the last six.
“They had a tough quarterfinal against Australia. It looked like USA got physical with them in the semifinal,” said Fiji coach Ben Ryan. “We had a tough semi against South Africa, but last night was a little easier. Thankfully, we got a good start on the score line and only lost one player to injury on the three day tournament.”
Fijian halfback Jerry Tuwai Vunisa was impressive in the ultimate match, scoring twice and endangering the All Black defense repeatedly.
“We brought him in this season, made debut this year, incredibly talented and good footwork. Still very raw,” said Ryan of Tuwai Vunisa.
“Very young training age, but he’s going back to the old school of Fijian players with ridiculous feet that can beat somebody in such a tiny area and space. He’s a box office palyer when he goes forward.”
Fiji remains in third place in the World Series table despite the win, but the gap between it and New Zealand in second has been closed to two points. The Fijians remain firmly in the top four, so if the Series ended today, they’d be qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
“It is all about the points. I set our boys a target of 150 Series points to get qualification (Fiji has 86 through five tournaments),” said Ryan.
“Number one priority is get clear in the top four, well clear, 20-plus points clear, and then we can look to try to win a title, because number one seeds in the Olympics will be whoever wins the Series, I’m sure, so that’s our second goal, but we want to be in the top four, and that’s all that matters.”