Fiji’s quest for fourth straight Sevens crown gathers pace

Mesulame Kunavula (top) of Fiji is tackled by Dmitry Sukhin (bottom) of Russia on the second day at the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament

Hong Kong (AFP) – Fiji’s march towards a record fourth straight Hong Kong Sevens crown gathered pace with two more victories on Saturday but the USA may be the ones to stand in their way.

The Fijians ended pool play with a perfect 3-0 record thanks to wins on Saturday over Russia (36-14) and then New Zealand (50-7), with six tries in a stunning second half of that last game.

“We were clinical and accurate in what we did,” said Fiji coach Gareth Baber. “That creates pressure on our opponents and then we are quick to score.”

Fiji have come to Hong Kong with a full-strength squad which they are hoping can back up and win gold at the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast next week. Several other nations –– South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia included -– have basically sent development squads for the seventh leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series.

It means the smart money has been on the in-form islanders, who won the last World Series leg in Vancouver in March and have racked up 17 titles in total at the Hong Kong Stadium.

Their stars were on display on Saturday, too, with powerhouse Vatemo Ravouvou and the fleet-footed Eroni Sau running rampant.

But the Americans showed in winning the Las Vegas tournament at the start of March that they are now a force at the top end of rugby sevens. There were moments that reflected that fact on Saturday as they downed Wales (47-5) and then Argentina (31-7).

Three tries to Danny Barrett against the South Americans showed a new strength inside to the US game plan, which normally relies on the scoring dash of wingers Perry Baker and Carlin Isles.

With Fiji and the USA topping their groups, the way is open for them to meet in the Cup final Sunday night at the Hong Kong Stadium.

USA coach Mike Friday said everything seemed to be falling into place for his team.

“We’ve started to eradicate error and introduce the more physical aspects of our game and that will put us in a good place come Sunday,” said Friday.