TOKYO (AP) — Waisea Nacuqu scored a try with eight seconds left for Fiji to beat defending champion South Africa 33-26 in the Tokyo Sevens rugby final on Saturday.
Fiji’s second title of the season gave it a huge boost in heading to Hong Kong for the world series’ main event next weekend.
South Africa’s fifth straight final appearance lifted it back atop the series standings, two points ahead of New Zealand, which lost 17-12 to Fiji in the semifinals, and 21-12 to England in the third-place playoff. Fiji was 21 points off the pace in third overall.
Fiji led 12-0 early in the final then had to score with seconds left to go into halftime at 19-19, after a half in which it mixed brilliant attack with errors that led to three South African tries and 19 straight points.
Emosi Mulevoro and Samisoni Viriviri scored so quickly that the final looked like it might be a Fiji romp. But in 3 ½ minutes, Kyle Brown began South Africa’s comeback with a try from a Fiji dropped pass, Stephan Dippenaar dotted down after Frankie Horne sucked in defenders, and Justin Geduld scored from a turnover near Fiji’s tryline.
Then from the restart, Fiji showed its wits, as Pio Tuwai flicked the ball back to Donasio Ratabuli, who caught the Africans’ defence slow to come up, ran straight and sent Benito Masilevu away to the posts.
Unlike the all-action first half, the second was mired in big tackles, errors and penalties, mostly in Fiji’s half. Setefano Cakau scored from a counterattack for Fiji, and Geduld levelled for South Africa with a try from a grubber kick which rebounded kindly into his hands off the right post.
Then with seconds left in regulation and Fiji passing deep in its own half, a high pass was flicked on by the tall Cakau straight to Nacuqu, which wrong-footed South Africa, and allowed Nacuqu to sprint in a wide left curve around the cover to score the winner.
“We are very excited because it keeps us in the race for the title,” Fiji captain Osea Kolinisau said. “Our goal for this season is to win the series and we have closed the points here. There will be more expectation, now that we have won in Tokyo, in Hong Kong.”