Olympic Sevens: Golden Dreams Realized

The world watched today as Rugby Sevens players dreams were finally realized. In amazing scenes, two national sides competed for one of the most elusive prizes in sport. A team gold medal at the Olympic Games. After a superb tournament, Fiji emerged as men’s champions as their players’ golden dreams realized on the world stage.

This was not an overnight accomplishment either. Many see Fiji and Sevens as symbiotic of that nations rugby attitude. ‘Throw the ball around and have a laugh’. So many will have admired their natural abilities with a ball, often in disbelief as they offload the ball to create a wonderful try. During the Olympic final played today, it seemed like the players in white embraced their ‘natural instincts’ as they bedazzled their opposition to win 43-7.

Full credit must go to both sides. Great Britain did exceptionally well to propel themselves from a secondary thought, into a ‘considered’ champion side. They went unbeaten through pool play, removing teams like New Zealand, Argentina and Japan on their course. With a base of England players, it ensured they had continuity to surprise many. Dan Bibby and James Rodwell engineered a great campaign, only falling short in the Gold medal match-up.

Day Six results

Playoff matches: NZL 24-19 France | Argentina 26-21 Australia | France 12-10 Australia | *NZL 17-14 Argentina  * New Zealand finish in 5th place

Semi finals: Fiji 20-5 Japan | South Africa 5-7 Great Britain

Bronze medal match: South Africa 54-14 Japan

GOLD MEDAL MATCH: Fiji 43-7 Great Britain

Fiji -Tries: c Kolai, Seremaaia Tuwai, Jasa Veremalua, Joshus Tuisova, Vilime Mata. Con: C Kolai (2) Vatemo Ravouvou (1) Kitone Taliga (1)

Great Britain – Tries: Dan Norton. Con: Marcus Watson (1)

With the eyes of the world on the team, the rugby players became fairy tale heroes by winning gold. Not only winning, but excelling at the task. Many will say this is ‘Mission complete’ and not only have Fiji reached the peak of sports, they brought home the tiny nations first ever Olympic medals. A huge victory, delighting the crowds at Deodoro Stadium and back in the Islands. The ‘Flying Fijians’ withstood an early challenge from Great Britain before throwing off the shackles and playing their world-renowned Harlem Globetrotter style of Sevens.

Pure entertainment, the performance reinforced their leading status on the modern game. World Champions on multiple occasions, two-time Sevens Series title holders and now Olympic medal winners.

Leading teams perform

Over the Men’s and Women’s competition, leading teams have triumphed. Favourites Fiji and the Australian women’s team both sailed-off with the spoils. This is what some said was a predictable end. Not at all, it was only due to hard work and a self-confidence in their own ability. Facing 12 International sides, all gunning for Gold, the reason the odds-on sides triumphed comes down to good planning and preparation. Not only from luck.

Winners and Losers

Often, sides who finish last are called ‘losers’. While that is the natural assumption, during this tournament, several teams have [sadly] proved to fit those titles best.

WINNERS: Brazil, Japan, Great Britain and, of course, FIJI! Of course

LOSERS: New Zealand, Kenya, United States and South Africa–this is not a ‘bombshell’ report. LWOS would never point fingers and the truth is that South Africa won bronze. Well done, but they did not accomplish their goals. Similar to their entire 2015/2016 HSBC Sevens Series season, they could not complete the task at hand.

Many players have also emerged as ‘names to watch’. Jerry Tuwai, James Rodwell and the Ioane brothers, Akira and Rieko from New Zealand. Expect those men to carry on their superb Sevens performances on the Sevens Series for years to come.

The result in Rio put an exclamation point on the game

The game of sevens has progressed since the 1980’s. Competing at the ‘Holy Grail’ of sports has meant teams now examine the game and are now much more detail-driven. That is too true of many sports, as technology plays it’s part and the heavy focus internally and externally improves every side. Analyzing the opposition, focusing on their strengths is how teams succeed today.

That and of course that in any team sport you require a collected will. No one player can deliver you Gold. While superstars may have ‘tried out’ for every team–even Fiji. Jarryd Hayne, the ex-NFL and current Rugby League player was judged to not quite reach the minimum standard required by Director of Rugby, Ben Ryan. A huge call, he will now feel confident that he took the ‘best 12 players available’ to Rio.

After six days, the winner is Rugby Sevens

On Day Six of the Olympic Sevens competition, after so much rugby and may ups-and-downs, so much blood, sweat and toil, the winner is…rugby sevens. People are finally taking the game seriously, and it would come as no surprise to the innovators of the sport. The crowds have been amazing, bring the colour and vivacious atmosphere that made the game such an attractive addition to the Olympic movement.

That includes names like Waisale Serevi, Lawrence Dallaglio and the late Jonah Lomu. Those men all played a part in establishing the sport, and in 2009 were a part of the International Rugby Board’s bid to legitimize the game. The IOC, who can be thanked for finally saying “Yes” enabled a team from the South Seas to finally medal at the Olympic Games.

Also involved in that bid was Agustín Pichot, the current Vice-Chairman of World Rugby. None could be prouder than he was–the first Olympic Sevens tournament ever and in his home continent of South America.

Battle for the title

In three pools, 12 of the best teams in the game would battle for the title. Some outstanding rugby has been played, with competition across the board. The highest achiever went through to the semi finals, with New Zealand and Australia failing to reach the medal round.

When Fiji cemented their spot in the Gold medal final, their talents shone through. One more step for the Ben Ryan coached side to take, and the people of Fiji rallied behind them. Lead Sevens reporter Jovilisi Waqa was amongst his fellow fans back in the Islands, gathered by his TV screen, it was also broadcast free at ANZ Stadium. Each person holding their breath and then cheering with elation, as the realism of the accomplishment set in.

The men’s team battled against the collected talents of Great Britain in a mammoth occasion. Each team did fantastically well to reach the final. The british side can hold their heads high, to have played in the first ever Olympic sevens final–must be time for a selfie!

The Fijian team emerged victors, scoring an epic 47 points. Not entirely one sided, but to play with such control in the final would have made every player to have ever worn the Fiji shirt proud.

Across the rugby world, they were applauded for their play and their humility.

Humble victors receive gold

In a chivalrous act, when standing atop the podium to be presented their medals, the Fijian players exhibited pure class. Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne walk toward the tall players, and with dignity, each knelt down to receive their winners medals. It had commentators and this reporter standing and applauding their act of graciousness.

After years of effort, and with Golden Dreams realized, they then smiled and cried, as their national anthem was played.

Celebrations began immediately, with a player hoisting their coach onto his shoulders. Group hugs were followed by a victory lap and, like they were doing back in Suva, the kava [traditional Fijian drink] was brought out to toast their success. And Last Word On Sports would agree with all those praises. The best team won the Gold.

Congratulations to all the medalists; Team GB and South Africa, and to all the teams who competed at the very first Olympic Rugby Sevens competition.

Olympic Sevens: Golden Dreams Realized

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