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A new world

Fiji storms to first-ever men’s rugby sevens gold at Rio 2016

By Habib Msallem

The Pacific island nation with a population of just under a million has won its first-ever Olympic medal – and it’s gold!

Fiji storms to first-ever men’s rugby sevens gold at Rio 2016

Vatemo Ravouvou breaks through to score Fiji's fifth try of the match (Photo: Getty Images/David Rogers)

Fiji utterly dominated the final of the men’s rugby sevens, defeating Great Britain by 43-7. The win gives the small Pacific island nation its first-ever medal at the Olympic Games. 

The final took place at the end of another day of high-speed chases, huge upsets and fans gone wild at Deodoro Stadium.

The Fijians dictated play from the moment they opened against the USA on day one of the Games. Their ability to keep the ball alive was seamlessly combined with their trademark improvisation.

Fiji players and staff celebrate their country's first Olympic medal (Photo: Getty Images/David Rogers)

Pop passes, off-loads, one-handed slings of the ball; top-quality teams like New Zealand found themselves worn down before being casually sliced open by the relentless Fijian attack.

When silky off-loads and patient buildup play took too long, the Fijians did not hesitate to bring out the bulldozers. Josua Tuisova in particular left many a player sitting on the grass over the past three days. The Toulon man is not the tallest, nor the biggest, but he is also not a man you want running full speed at you with nostrils flared and a menacing grin.

South Africa appeared most likely to constitute worthy competition for the Fijians, but the two would never meet. In the semi-final, Great Britain’s valiant defensive line proved more than a match for the South African speed merchants, who had to make do with a bronze medal match-up with Japan.

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The Japanese were the surprise package of the tournament. Winning their opener against New Zealand, the side went on to defeat team after team who, earlier this year, had beaten them in the World Rugby Sevens Series. Their run was finally ended by a dominant South African performance in the bronze medal game.

Fiji's fans won over the Brazilians with their colourful support (Photo: Getty Images/ David Rogers)

New Zealand and Australia, who finished fifth and eighth respectively, will be disappointed with their performances across the three days of competition.

But Rio 2016’s rugby sevens tournament was all about Fiji. The smallest nation in the competition proved that they were made for success on the world's biggest stage.