Fiji win Las Vegas Sevens after thrilling fightback against Australia

Fiji saw off Australia in the Las Vegas Sevens final to extend their lead at the top of the overall standings.

Fiji win Las Vegas Sevens after thrilling fightback against Australia
Fiji celebrate victory over Australia to win the Las Vegas Sevens (image via: worldrugby.org)

Fiji are Las Vegas Sevens champions after a 21-15 comeback victory in the final against Australia

Fiji overcame a 15-0 half-time deficit to win the final, and did it thanks to three second half tries when it looked like all was lost. Ben Ryan's men put on a performance to be proud after showing exceptional skill levels to dispose of a hard-working opponent in Australia, who have now suffered back-to-back final defeats.

The win sees Fiji reaffirm their position atop the overall rankings, and gives them their second tournament success of the season after winning the opening leg in Dubai. After Cyclone Winston hit the Pacific Island recently, this result meant a lot for the Fijian side and it's people who have something to smile about during this desperate time back home. 

Fijians and Aussies reach final after thrilling weekend

In qualifying for the final, both sides came through tough patches on a dramatic weekend in Vegas. 

Fiji suffered a setback from the off, when they lost their opening group game against Samoa, and only scraped through to the knockout stages after beating Argentina and France in their final two Pool C fixtures. 

Australia, meanwhile eased through their qualifying group, after consecutive wins over Scotland, England and Japan, with the two British sides knocked out at the end of pool play. 

In another shock result, New Zealand had to settle for second spot in Pool A, after they were thumped 22-0 by Kenya who topped the group with three straight victories. 

Fiji eased through to the semi-final stage, after beating surprise quarter-finalists Japan 43-7, where they set up a semi-final against the hosts America who beat Kenya 26-14 in their quarter. 

Seabelo Senatla crosses for a try in South Africa's win over New Zealand (image via: iafrica.com)

On the other side of the draw, South Africa came out on top of the heavyweight battle against New Zealand, winning 14-7, to set up a meeting with Australia in the semi-finals after they disposed of Argentina in a 26-12 win. 

Unfortunately for the thousands in attendance, Fiji proved to be too strong for the USA, running out 21-14 winners thanks to tries from Jasa Veremalua, Vatemo Ravouvou and a stunner from Pio Tuwai.

The second semi saw tournament favourites South Africa knocked out by Australia in a close contest, decided by a pair of penalty tries.

Seabelo Senatla and Kyle Brown scored tries for the Blitzbokke but their ill-discipline cost them dearly, as they threw away what looked like a certain victory.

Both penalty tries were awarded for dangerous tackles close to the line by Roscko Speckman, with the second one coming after the clock had hit zero, and the Aussies chasing an unlikely victory. Speckman was red carded for the two incidents, and when Quade Cooper knocked over the conversion, it was Australia who progressed to the final after claiming the 14-12 victory. 

Rawaca completes thrilling comeback with incredible 108 metre score

As finals day progressed, the wind got stronger, and by the time the final kicked off it was really starting to dictate games with players struggling to even pass five metres to their teammates. 

Australia began the final much the better side, and it soon showed on the scoreboard when they raced out in a 15-0 lead before the break. Tries from Sam Myers, Ed Jenkins and Cameron Clark were nothing less than the Wallabies deserved, with tries two and three coming while Nemani Nagusa was in the bin for the Flying Fijians. One issue which cost the Aussies in the final reckoning, was that none of their tries were converted after being scored out wide, making it impossible to kick against the hurling wind. 

Following a stern half-time team talk by head coach, Ben Ryan, Fiji looked like a new side after the interval, and soon got themselves back in the game when substitute Kitione Taliga broke from deep to score a 90 metre try. 

Taliga then added a second try just a few minutes later to draw Fiji within one point, and with plenty of time left on the clock for them to complete the comeback. 

It was then Australia's turn to change the momentum of the game, and they found themselves camped on Fiji's line and came within inches of scoring, only for Cooper to lose possession.

Savenaca Rawaca scored the all-important winning try in the final (image via: HSBC Twitter)

Straight from that very ruck, Osea Kolinisau whipped a 20 yard pass from under his own posts, which eventually found winger Savenaca Rawaca, who was eight metres behind his try line when he gathered the ball. Rawaca then set off on an incredible run, which saw him brush off the covering defender, before he sprinted the length of the field for what was a stunning tournament-winning try. 

Fiji held out for the final minute, before running towards their adoring fans to share this special moment.

Quick return for sides, with Vancouver on the horizon

After a poor weekend for their standards, New Zealand had to make do with victory in the plate final, with Wales picking up the bowl and Samoa the shield.

In what was the first ever international Sevens event played on artificial turf, Sam Boyd Stadium hosted an excellent event which was well supported throughout the three days.

The series continues in earnest, with the teams back in action next weekend in Vancouver for the sixth leg of the series, and Fiji the team to catch with a five-point lead at the top of the overall ladder.