TOKYO, (SATSports) – Olympic champion Jerry Tuwai keeps repeating the mantra that Fiji treats every game as a final.
Now Fiji’s Olympic rugby sevens title defense really does hinge on every game it plays.
The Fijians raced to a 19-0 half-time lead against Britain on Tuesday in a rematch of the 2016 final and finished 33-7 to secure top spot in Pool B and a quarterfinal match against Australia, which placed third in Pool A behind top-ranked New Zealand and Argentina.
“We were not playing the way we wanted to be, but we’re thankful we came out on top of GB,” Tuwai said. “We look forward to our next final, which is our next game.”
Britain didn’t conceded any points in its opening-day wins over Canada and Japan in hot and humid conditions but had trouble containing the Fijian attack in the wet.
“It’s a nice wakeup call in a way,” Britain back Dan Norton said. “Just because we’ve had one blip, we’ve been here before, we’re into the quarterfinals and that’s all that matters.”
South Africa, the bronze medalist in Rio de Janeiro five years ago, went behind early against the United States before rallying to clinch top spot in Pool C with a 17-12 win. The South Africans will meet Argentina and the Americans will face Britain in the quarterfinals later Tuesday. New Zealand will open the knockout rounds against Canada.
The quarterfinal winners advance to the medal rounds on Wednesday; the losers go into the classification rounds to determine fifth to eighth places. Ireland, Kenya, South Korea and 2016 semifinalist Japan are out of medal contention.
Whatever happens in the quarterfinals, the U.S. men will finish higher than they did in Rio. They took the game up to South Africa, with Joe Schroder reaching over to score the opening try after the Americans spread the ball first to the right and back to the left.
Danny Barrett got within yards of the line but didn’t have the pace to beat the cover defense or extend the U.S. lead.
The South Africans hit back right on half time after winning a 5-yard scrum and sending the ball to the left for Selvyn Davids to score in the corner, making it 5-5.
Stedman Gans and Davids scored tries in quick succession as South Africa took a 17-5 lead midway through the second half before Brett Thompson cut the margin to five points with a try in the last minute.
“Our goal was always to make the quarters,” Thompson said. “Coming out of the pool and having that opportunity for the medal rounds, that’s really all we can ask.”
A 12-team tournament meant the top two teams in each of the three groups advanced automatically to the last eight, along with the two best third-place teams.
Australia and Canada got the last two spots in the quarterfinals, with Ireland narrowly missing out.
Top-ranked New Zealand had to rally from a 12-0 deficit and some defensive concerns exposed by Samu Kerevi to edge Australia 14-12. Argentina trounced South Korea 56-0 to take the second spot in Pool A.
Canada took the third spot in Pool B with a 36-12 win over 2016 semifinalist Japan, which finished the group stage with three losses.