Olympic Sevens: Fairy-tale Semifinal For Fiji And Japan

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It will be a fairy-tale semi final for Fiji and Japan, when they meet in the Olympic Sevens competition. Fiji continued their dream run when they ended New Zealand hopes in the first semi 12-7. Japan followed suit when they scored a try at the hooter to continue their fairy tale run.

Forget the script, the 2016 Olympic Games has seen some fascinating and entertaining games played out at Deodoro Stadium. The action has left everyone in awe. Fans, commentators and players alike. From Fiji’s dream run to Japan’s giant killing instincts. From the United States early exit, to the fall of New Zealand as a heavyweight-contender. Besides South Africa and Great Britain, oh how the ‘mighty have fallen’ in Rio.

Fairy-tale Semifinal For Fiji and Japan

The South Sea Islanders Fiji and the men from the Land Of The Rising Sun will battle it out in the first semifinal. This is what many have called a fairy-tale semi. These two teams have defied the odds to get where they are today. Fiji is in the semis with their shoe-string budget, while the Japanese brought it all here at the Deodoro Sadium. They have surprised many to make the quarters, let alone the semis.

The sport has ‘come alive’ in it’s sevens form. World Rugby and the IOC have embraced the game, and fns and spectators all agree “it is exhilarating to watch”.

Teams come un-stuck in the pressure of the Olympics

Kenya and the United States have been the disappointment of the tournament. Brazil and Japan the surprise packages to be honest. The Kiwis will be left to rue their chances in Rio, as to why they didn’t take leading stars of the XV a side game (but that is not an excuse).

Meanwhile, in the other semi final, Great Britain will meet South Africa. Dan Bibby scored the winner for Team GB only in extra-time, for tight 5-0 win over Argentina. Across on the other side of the draw, South Africa walloped Australia in the final quarter final match 22-5. That will mean the playoff for the minor placings see’s many of the biggest names disappointed. That is sport, and why fans and players all hold the same dream to achieve. As they say at the games, “there is always next time”.

Consistency Keeping Japanese Dreams Alive

No one gave a chance to Japan side in the pool stages. Predicted to finish third, through determination, faith, talent and self-belief, they won. Winning the ‘hearts of the rugby world’ like they did last year at the Rugby World Cup. Come the semi final, the could may be dressed in red and white, as the underdog meets the ‘big guns’ of Fiji.

The tough Japanese overcame New Zealand 14-12 in their first game, lost out to Great Britain but walloped Kenya 31-7 to gain entry into the quarter finals.

Reaching a Quarter Final

Accomplishing that, there, they scored at the full-time hooter through Teruya Goto to break French hearts. The French were leading 7-5 before Goto struck late, as their line speed in defense paid dividends. With possession, he darted in under the posts after continuous infringements by the French around the ruck. The 12-7 victory saw wild scenes, as the reserves and management reacted fantastically. Who said the Japanese were not emotional.

Pacific Islanders Key to Japanese Progress

What the Japanese lack for in size, they make up for with faith and determination. However, one integral part of their success is the Pacific Islanders in their sevens team. Tongan strongman Lemeki Lomano has been immense player for Japan. He brings a real spark, and some handy kicking ability. They also have Fijian-born duo Lote Tuqiri and Kameli Soejima.

Lomano dictates play at the back, while Tuqiri alternates as a forward and back, with Soejima the super-sub. The Japanese players play off their new ‘big men’. Captain Katsuyaki Sakai and Teruya Goto know when to feed off these men, and in Rio have capitalized on that fact to turn it into points.

World Rugby - Japan
Japan’s players celebrate after beating France 12-7 on day 5 of Rio 2016 Olympic Games men’s sevens at the Deodoro Stadium. Photo: Dan Mullan

Those imports will play a major role against Fiji tomorrow. They need their expertise to counter the much bigger Fijians, especially the ‘bus’ Josua Tuisova. Japan will need to put two or three men on him–but there are threats everywhere–and the Japanese will have to play ‘the game of their lives’.

Fijian Golden Dream May Turn into Reality in 24 Hours

Yes, in less than 24 hours Fiji could be celebrating it’s first ever win at any Olympic Event (no matter the colour). However, that dream must first be to get to the Gold medal final. Japan is the first hurdle they have to overcome in the semis.

Fiji has been on a standstill every time their team has played in the last two days. In essence, not coming out of third gear. Come the finals; if they continue in that mode, only the birds will be humming.

Fiji Survived Two Big Games in Three Hours

The Islanders survived two big challenges in a three hour window to get there. Against United States first, and then New Zealand to book their semi finals place.

To start with, they had a hard-fought victory over Mike Friday’s American side 24 -19. No easy feat, as Team USA are probably the quickest team, with Carlin Isles, and now with big Nate Ebner too.

Their win actually enabled the Kiwi side to progress into the quarters [after they had disappointed with two losses]. With that, Fiji managed to send their longtime rivals home, beating them 12-7 in a tense quarter final game to set-up Fijian dreams of Gold.

Magic of Tuwai

Like yesterday, it was the magic of Jerry Tuwai that gave Fiji the victory. In a brilliant move, he brushed aside would-be tacklers to score the winner. The Kiwis gave it their all in the final moments of the game, but to no avail. Credit to Gilles Kaka, DJ Forbes and the full New Zealand squad but it wasn’t just their tournament. Injuries and some indecision have plagued the former World Champions.

Results Day Five – Pool A:  Argentina 31-0 Brazil | Fiji 24-19 USA

Quarter Final:  Fiji 12-7 NZL | Japan 12-7 France | Great Britain 5-0 Argentina | RSA 22-5 Australia

Minor placings: USA 24-12 Brazil | Spain 14-12 Kenya 

Can The Fiji Men Finally Wake?

This is the question on the minds of all Fijians and their many fans all over the world. They have been winning, but not in the fashion synonymous with Fiji sevens. Seemingly ‘asleep at the wheel’ they have not shown the flair fans love. Winning, but not in the usual style where the men ‘throw away the script’ and commentators find new metaphors to define their prowess.

They have the arsenal in all aspects of the game–the Real Madrid of sevens rugby. Unlike, the Spanish football giants, they all hail from the same tiny Pacific Island Nation. Proud of their following, on Day Six they will have a chance to create history? A fairy-tale semifinal for Fiji and Japan will only build the tension on the islands. All eyes will be on the men in white. An opportunity to underline their status as the ‘best team in the modern game’.

Deliver on their promise

Will the ginger-haired Englishman at the helm of Fiji Sevens, Director of Rugby Ben Ryan, will he help finally deliver Fiji’s first ever Gold Medal? Can he and his merry man fulfill a dream of a nation? All that to be answered in the next 24 hours.

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Follow all the updates and results ot the Men’s Olympics Sevens here on Last Word On Sports.

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