Samoa claim Paris Sevens title after astonishing comeback victory over Series leading Fijians

Paris made an excellent return to the World Series Sevens Series, hosting three days of breathtaking rugby, culminating in Samoa beating Fiji in a memorable final

Samoa claim Paris Sevens title after astonishing comeback victory over Series leading Fijians
Samoa lift the Paris Sevens title (image via: WorldRugby.org)

Samoa staged a remarkable comeback to overcome Fiji in the Paris Sevens final, claiming their first title of the season in the process.

Having been one of the top sides on the circuit a couple of seasons ago, Samoa had struggled somewhat recently but turned form on its head to win the first Sevens tournament held in Paris since 2006.

Losing finalists Fiji extended their lead at the top of the overall season standings after seeing closest rivals South Africa and New Zealand toppled at the quarter-final stage.

Next week, the series moves onto London for the final leg of the season, with news coming soon after the Paris final, that Fiji have called up Jarryd Hayne. The former NRL star who spent a season in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers has turned his sights to making the Fijian squad for the Rio Olympics this summer. 

Jarryd Hayne meeting with the Fijian Sevens earlier this season (image via: w3livenews.com)

Tuwai double leads Fiji to large half-time lead in final

As leaders of the overall series standings, Fiji were favourites for the final, especially having beaten the same opposition 42-5 just 24 hours earlier in group play. They certainly started as though they were the better team, building a huge 26-7 lead at the break.

With the final extended to ten minute halves, the Fijians shot out of the blocks and found themselves 21-0 before Samoa had put together a meaningful attack. Isake Katonibau opened the scoring after pacing away from the defenders on the back of an excellent offload from Leone Nakarawa, with the Glasgow second-row forward then assisting Josua Tuisova for the games second try two minitues later

Jerry Tuwai's 60 metre break saw him extend the lead to 21, before Samoa finally got on the board through Belgium Tuatagaloa after excellent being put into space by Alex Samoa.

Jasa Veremalua breaks Samoan tackles during the final (image via: worldrugby.org)

The first half scoring was not at an end though, and Jasa Veremalua's arching run which took out four defenders helped the big man lay the ball on a platter for Tuwai who crossed for his second of the match. 

Selesele sparks comeback before scoring game-winner

Heading into the second half, Samoa faced suffering a heavy defeat to their Pacific neighbours for the second time in two days. Fortunately for head coach Damian McGrath, his captain Faleminga Selesele was ready to take over the Paris final and lead his side to a stunning comeback.

The first signs of a comeback came two minutes after the break, when Tila Mealoi dived over in the corner following a great offload-driven counter attack down the left flank. 

Mealoi then doubled up, when scoring another try three minutes later following a barnstorming break down the middle of the field by Selesele to reduce the deficit to nine. 

Man of the match Faleminga Selesele during the Paris Sevens final (image via: worldrugby.org) 

The attacks kept coming for Samoa on the left side of the field, and they got back within two of Fiji with three minutes left on the clock when Siaosi Asofolau crossed for a five-pointer. 

As the clock continued to tick towards double zeros, Samoa found themselves in the Fiji 22 once more, and after shipping the ball to the right, they then swung it back to the left, with Selesele the lucky recipient out wide to score in the corner for a 29-26 lead. 

If there's one thing this season has taught us, it is that Fiji will never stop doubting their ability to score from anywhere. Having been blitzed to the tune of 24 points in seven minutes, they found it within themselves to launch a final counter-attack of their own.

Fiji looked certain to score with Amenoni Nasilasila surging for the corner, only for a monster tackle from Tuatagaloa to dislodge the ball, sparking scenes of delerium for the Samoan team who claimed the Paris title in unbeleivable circumstances.

Samoa perform the Sivi Tau alongside the Paris Sevens trophy (image via: worldrugby.org)

Quarter-final shocks bring day three to life

The final day in Paris started with a bang at the quarter-final stage of the cup competition, with three of this seasons tournament winners falling to surprise defeats.

New Zealand were the first group winners to suffer defeat at the hands of an in-form Argentina, with South Africa then suffering a similar fate 20 minutes later against the Samoans.

Singapore champions Kenya were next to fall, losing to a Virimi Vakatawa-inspired France who really upped their game in front of a raucous home crowd.

Virimi Vakatawa on his way to the line for Franc ein their win over Kenya (image via: worldrugby.org)

The only favourite who did prevail through from the quarters was Fiji, with Ben Ryan's men seeing off Australia 17-15 after a late breakaway try from Samisoni Viriviri.

The semi-finals later in the day saw Samoa overcome Argentina 14-12 thanks to a late Mealoi conversion, with hosts France then knocked out by Fiji 22-5 after two tries from their captain Osea Kolinisau.

French secure third place, while Bliztboks prevail in the Plate

After an excellent weekend for the hosts, they gave their home fans one more reason to cheer at the Stade Jean Bouin, beating Argentina in the battle for third place. Vakatawa scored twice in the win, which gave France their best point tally in the series since Cape Town last December. 

South Africa grabbed 13 series points after claiming victory in the Plate final over Australia, but now sit 14 points behind Fiji on the overall ladder meaning only a miracle will see them claim the Series title. 

Scotland beat England 28-10 to win the Bowl, and Portugal claimed the Shield after beating Wales 24-19 with a golden point try in extra-time.

Portugal celebrate winning the Shield (image via: worldrugby.org)

The teams reconvene at Twickenham next weekend for the London Sevens, with the hosts expected to bring back Tom Mitchell and Dan Norton into the fold.