Fiji wins first-ever men’s rugby sevens gold medal
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Fiji's powerful rugby players have won the South Pacific island nation's first Olympic medal - and it's gold.
And they sang in celebration after the final whistle.
Osea Kolinisau and his rugby sevens teammates capped Fiji's domination over the past two years with a mighty performance in the Olympic final gold medal game against a British team that was steamrollered by the powerful Fijians.
The final score was 43-7. Kolinisau scored the first of the first of Fiji's seven tries, fittingly for the long-time captain, by reaching calmly back over his head as he was rolled onto his back in a tackle to touch down in the corner.
It was all but over at half-time, with the Fijians scoring five tries before the break for a 29-0 lead.
Rugby is back in the Olympics for the first time since a 15-a-side tournament was played in 1924. The International Olympic Committee took the decision in 2009 to add the sevens format for Rio, and the Fijians have been preparing ever since to end a drought at the Summer Games.
South Africa won the bronze medal with a 54-14 win over Japan.
Leone Nakarawa created all kinds of trouble for the British players with his sheer size and brute strength.
He played a part in the leadup to a try for Jerry Tuwai as the Fijians spread the ball from side-to-side and went within a meter of scoring before he was dragged down.
Jasa Veremalua scored in the right corner to make it 17-0 and the Fijians scored again directly from the kickoff when Semi Kunatani regathered the re-start and passed to Nakarawa, who sprinted away to score.
Vatemo Ravouvou finished off a long-range attack and Kolinisau converted to make it 29-0 at halftime.
The Fijians scored twice more in the second half — the only blemish being Dan Norton's try.
Fiji has sent athletes to the Olympics ever since the Melbourne Games in 1956, but had never previously won a medal.
The sevens team took that honor when it beat tournament upstart Japan 20-5 in the semifinals, but all the players and coach Ben Ryan knew that silver would not satisfy the Fijian public. Ryan said it time and again — only gold would do for the expectant public in their Pacific island country of 900,000.
Earlier on Thursday, the U.S. men’s rugby team defeated Spain 24-12 to finish ninth in the final Olympic standings.
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