Fiji in ninth sevens triumph


Fiji were crowned Hong Kong Sevens champions for the ninth time yesterday with a 2112 win against a New Zealand side stripped of their star players.

Marika Vunibaka, who helped Fiji to win the World Cup Sevens here in 1997, scored two breathtaking tries to steer the defending champions to victory.

Vunibaka, the tournament's top try scorer with 12, and the peerless Waisale Serevi were the key figures in a Fiji side intent on gaining revenge for their defeat by New Zealand in last September's Commonwealth Games final.

That New Zealand team included Jonah Lomu and Christian Cullen. Veteran captain Eric Rush, making his 10th appearance in the Hong Kong Sevens, did not have similar firepower at his disposal.

Serevi, who has appeared in Hong Kong 11 times and has been in a winning side on five occasions, dedicated the victory to the youngsters of Fiji.

"The (£120,000) prize money is not important, it's the honour of winning a tournament which is followed so closely in Fiji," said Serevi, whose Rugby World Cup place is in doubt because of his dedication to the sevens game.

Fiji opened the scoring in the final when Viliame Satala caught a line-out ball and charged over.

Samoa-born teenager Orene Ai'i, who played for his country against Fiji in last year's final, scored a try to put New Zealand just two points behind and Amasio Valence, a Fijian by birth who gained New Zealand citizenship weeks before the Commonwealth Games, put them ahead 12-7 at half-time with a converted try.

But the second half was Fiji's with Serevi making space for Vunibaka to step on the gas and tear through the tiring New Zealand defence.