Fiji 'overcome' Cyclone Winston in Vegas

By the punter
Mar 07, 2021
  • Fiji shows of the trophy in a past win. The players turn their attention to Vancouver, Canada this weekend.

Whenever the Fiji seven-a-side plays an a big tournament, the country virtually stops to watch. The final of the USA Sevens was special.

Fiji were playing with heavy hearts following a devastation by Cyclone Winston which left more than 40 people killed. The players some of who were affected played with black ribbons on the sleeves of their jerseys as a mary of respect.

Their resilience to bounce back after losing the opening match against Samoa was an epitome of courage and grit. Even when the 'storm' appeared to have followed Fiji to the Sam Boyd Stadium, the players resolved to overcome the adversity. B

efore the final against Australia, there was a heavy wind as the national anthems were played. Then, Australia scored three quick tries in the first half which they dominated and it appeared Fiji were unlikely to come back from such a big deficit.

But, just like they promised to overcome the effects of the cyclone at home, Fiji bounced back and from 0-15 down to beat Australia 21-15.

Osea Kolonisau, the Fiji captain who was voted the tournament's best player emotionally recalled the effects of the cyclone at home.

"One week after Cyclone Winston struck, we went back into camp and all the players said we were going to play here in Las Vegas. I reminded the boys this week that we needed to remember the people wo were victims of Cyclone Winston and that we needed to give them something to be happy about after all the devastation.

To come up against Australia like that was tough, but we said 10 minutes is a long time and all we needed to do was to get back the ball to have a chance to win," the captain said.'

In the second half, urged on by fervent supporters who chanted Go Fiji Go, the players responded to tries by Sam Myers, Ed Jenkins and Cameron Clark in an emphatic comeback with Kitione Taliga scoring two ties while Savenaca Rawca and three conversions by Vatemo Ravouvou ensured the win.

Bankers stopped to watch final

Bankers stopped to watch final Sports News Arena spoke to some of the Fiji journalists who confirmed that rugby had a big following at home. One of the journalists showed this writer a clip in which customers at a local bank and the workers stopped working to watch the final.

"These players are heroes back home. It is so sensitive that when anybody if found to be causing discomfort to any players, he/she will face the music".

True to their word, Fiji fans patiently waited for their heroes at the team's hotel. While the families and fans waited, young school-age children showed impeccable skills of passing and catching the ball. The Fiji fans also cheered Australia players who walked past the reception.

The Australian players obliged by signing autographs and taking photos with Fiji fans. As they waited for the players, one of the referees Rasta Rasivhenge (who is growing dreadlocks again) became the center of attraction and took nearly 30 minutes with the fans.

"He is a very popular man back in Fiji," one of the fans offered. Another stated the referee had already been given a place to build a house in Fiji."

Whenever Fiji have had a good tournament and returned with a trophy, the players are paraded throughout the Island and the people given one day holiday.

The World Series World Rugby Sevens Series Sevens table has a new-look with Fiji on top with 91 points followed by South Africa on 65. New Zealand complete fourth with 82 points. New Zealand fell off the pace after losing to South Africa in the cup quarter finals on Saturday.

The chase for the top spot is now between Fiji, South Africa and Australia. England dropped off the pace in one of their low -key tournaments of the season. They were beaten 21-19 by France in the Bowl final.

Main cup quarter finals: Kenya 14 USA 26, Fiji 43 Japan 7, South Africa 14 New Zealand 7, Australia 26 Argentina; Semi-finals: 12 USA 14 Fiji 21, South Africa 12 Australia 14; Final:Fiji 21 Australia 15.

Plate semis: Kenya 14 Japan 15, New Zealand 24 Argentina 19; Final: New Zealand 27 Japan 7.

Bowl quarter finals: Scotland 17 Samoa 12, France 21 England 19, Wales 21 Portugal 12, Russia 19 Canada 10; Semi-finals: Russia 14 France 15, Wales 21 Scotland 14; Final: France 12 Wales 28.

Shield semi finals: Canada 24 England 7, Portugal 14 Samoa 29; Final: Canada 12 Samoa 24.

Standings: Fiji 91 (510), South Africa 86 (474), New Zealand 82 (258), Australia 73 (218), USA 64 (63), Argentina 64 (-57), England 52 (88), Kenya 52 (20), France 36 (-34), Scotland 32 (-37), Samoa 31 (28), Canada 23 (-38), Wales 22 (-121), Japan 20 (-204), Russia 12 (-445), Portugal 9 (-581).