I watched the Olympic gold medal final back in 2016. To write this article I watched it again to remind myself of how the game unfolded. I had forgotten what a fantastic showcase of exciting, innovative try scoring it was. As a supporter of Team GB it was sobering to see the total domination Fiji had over us.
Both teams had produced some fine results on their journey to the gold medal final and this game was set up to be quite a climax to the tournament. Fiji started the competition as the number 1 ranked team in the world and expectations were high. In the final they had to overcome a British team who had earned the right to be there with some impressive results.Embed from Getty Images
There was also a sub plot to the match. The man in charge of the Fijian team Ben Ryan, was the former England 7’s head coach. In 2013 he linked up with Fiji and would oversee preparations for the 2016 Rio Olympics. To add to this, Fiji had recently suffered Cyclone Winston which had caused devastation and destruction across the Islands. The motivation for the players to put a smile on the faces of the Fijian people was huge. Team GB would have a mountain to climb to win this match.
Fiji on fire
The whistle started 20 minutes of exhibition rugby. It took Fiji only 55 seconds to score the first try. Osea Kolinisau broke down the left wing, Team GB Captain Tom Mitchell brought him down just before the try line but with an overhead stretch he was able to touch the ball down. As I watched the impressive running lines and the speed and precision that the ball was being moved around, I could sense that it wasn’t going to be our day.Embed from Getty Images
Fiji went onto score a further four tries in the first half. By the time the second half kicked off, the job was already done. I’m sure the Team GB players would disagree with me though. With an Olympic gold medal at stake, they would give their all until the final whistle was blown.
Writing was on the wall
With nearly four minutes gone of the second period, Jasa Veremalua broke free with ease and crossed the line. Having already bagged a try in the first half, he passed to Josua Tuisova to ground the ball and claim the try. At last with some neat interplay Team GB struck back and gave the fans something to cheer. The sequence ended with the England flyer Dan Norton putting the ball down in the left hand corner. A glimpse of a very good side who were being outplayed during a rugby seven’s masterclass.Embed from Getty Images
Fiji weren’t quite done yet. In the final minute, Viliame Mata was ruled to have poached a well fought try at a ruck on Team GB’s line. Shortly after the conversion, the final whistle was blown and the Fijian rugby sevens squad had made history by winning its countries first Olympic medal, a gold at that. The final score 43 to 7.
Everybody was a winner
From the Team GB players, there would be no complaint. They were outplayed on the day by a very skilful, fit and organised team who everyone believed would be triumphant in winning gold before a ball was even kicked. As GB fans, we witnessed brilliance from Fiji and as they ran in try after try all we could do was look on in admiration at the way they play the game. By winning silver at the Olympics, Team GB did us all proud.Embed from Getty Images
For every man, woman and child
After I viewed the match again, I watched the HSBC short film ‘Sevens from Heaven’ which documents the build-up to the games and the tournament itself. For me it helped to put into perspective what winning gold meant to the players and the country.
Ben Ryan said in the film that every man, woman and child in Fiji were behind the team. That was evident in this fantastic film which captures the emotion and the commitment that the whole country had to the team. It also shows the commitment the team had to the country, and the determination they had to win the gold medal to honour everybody back home.Embed from Getty Images
Fiji were deserved winners in the 2016 Olympics. With skill, passion and determination it would be a brave person who bets against Fiji backing up Rio with another gold medal when the next Olympics come around.
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About the writer
Daniel is a guest writer here on Rakaviti. He is a rugby enthusiast and writer from England and we welcome him to the Rakaviti family. If you would like to become a guest writer, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.