Fiji 7s team crowned Oceania Champions

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Fijian 7s team was crowned the PacificAus Sports Oceania 7s champions after remaining undefeated and urging All Black 7s 17-7 in their final match in Townsville.

Coach Gareth Baber reshuffled his players during the three-day competition and named a mixture of experience and young players for their final match against New Zealand.

Fiji started the match with a bang, outpacing their opponents. After a few phases, Sireli Maqala beautifully broke the New Zealand defense allowing Iosefo Masi dive in for their first try.

Juita Wainiqolo scored second try to make it 12-0 before going for a breather.

Vilimoni Botitu and Aminiasi Tuimaba were also given the opportunity to play in the second half.

Fijian 7s continued to mount pressure on their opponent and after some amazing passing and offloads Masi ran in for his second try.

New Zealand’s consolation try by Kurt Baker was not enough as Fiji Airways Fijian 7s were crowned the Oceania 7s champions.

Fijian 7s Coach Gareth Baber is impressed with the national teams’ performance but has mentioned that there are areas which they need to work on ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games next month.

“We are in a good spot, we played some good game but we have been ordinary on times but we scored a good bag of tries which is what we always after.

We will continue to work on our shapes and qualities in defense.”

He added “Its first time we have been in an international competition, some 15 months, so I’m pleased with the level we are at, I’m also pleased with the intensity we bring to the game, we still got a little bit of more work to do physically and keeping ourselves with that mental battle we get in the game but overall it has been a good outing.”

Baber added that a few players such as Sireli Maqala, Iosefo Masi, and Jiuta Wainiqolo put up an outstanding show over the weekend.

“They have really put their hands up for selection. They working their socks off, they are diligent about the way they go about their work and they show it on the field.

I’m pleased across the board, the players have worked hard and worked for each other” he said.

Baber further added that there are a few injuries which his medical team is working on.

He said Kalione Nasoko had a dislocated shoulder and it was successfully put in place.

“He would have played today but I didn’t feel the necessity to push him at this stage. Asaeli Tuivuaka has got a concussion.

We are trying to get his head up the way he tackles but he tent on leading with his hands most of the time but he will be ok. He will go through protocols to get back to training” said Baber.

The Fijiana side created a major upset defeating Olympic gold medalists Australia 19-12 at the Oceania 7s in Townsville.

The Saiasi Fuli coached side scored two tries without reply in the first half to lead 12-nil at halftime.

Australia replied to reduce the deficit to 19-7 before Fiji ran in for another try.

The Aussies scored another try and tried hard to get a third but the Fijiana held on.

New Zealand secured women’s titles at the Oceania Sevens Championships after their sides completed unbeaten in Townsville.

Meanwhile, Fiji Rugby has expressed its deep gratitude to the Australian Government for their support of rugby in Fiji and our high performance programmes.

Welcoming the announcement made by Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Marise Payne, FRU CEO John O’Connor said.

“We are humbled and grateful to the Australian Government for this support. Without their funding of our Men’s & Women’s 7’s teams travel costs to come to Australia, we could not have participated in this weekend’s PacificAus Sports Oceania Rugby Sevens tournament in Townsville” “It is so important to our Olympic preparation and our quest to defend our gold medal, and we just thank them on behalf of all Fijians”

The announcement also includes funding to help establish both the Fijian Drua and their potential inclusion in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition, but also for Fiji’s women’s team to join Rugby Australia’s Super W competition.

“Our Fijiana team has qualified for the Rugby World Cup to be held in New Zealand in late 2022, and joining the Super Rugby W competition will give our women’s players a much needed program of high level competition to help them prepare for the RWC next year.”

O’Connor added “The funding for the Fijian Drua will help us bring back our best players home from overseas, and retain our local talent, allowing us to offer full time playing contracts to ensure we can field a highly competitive team in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition”.

Having the Fijian Drua team join the Super Rugby Trans- Tasman competition will greatly assist our preparation for the Rugby World Cup to be held in France in 2023, so the Australian Government funding will support both our Olympic and Rugby World Cup aspirations for men & women’s teams in both 7s and XV’s.

The Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, John Feakes said “Rugby is a great unifier between Australians and their Fijian vuvale. Supporting the Fiji 7s to compete in Townsville and hopefully win gold in Tokyo is a great demonstration of our close sporting ties. Our support for the Drua and Fijiana is a reminder for all Fijians that there are brighter days ahead of us,”

FRU also thanked Rugby Australia, World Rugby & Oceania Rugby for their support in facilitating these arrangements.

SOURCE: FRU/FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS