Fiji, Japan, Great Britain and South Africa have all advanced to the medal round of the Men's Rugby Sevens Tournament at the Rio Olympics after winning their quarterfinals on Wednesday evening.
Road to the medal stage
After Pool play concluded on Wednesday, eight quarter-finalists knew that their tournament would continue on to at least into the evening at the Deodoro Stadium. By virtue of their finishes in their respective pools, Fiji, New Zealand, Japan, France, Team GB, Argentina, South Africa and Australia all moved on to the second round of matches.
Fijian dream stays alive
Fiji took on New Zealand in the first quarterfinal of the evening. It was a bitterly contested match between two sides who would have both been hoping to wind up on the medal stand. However, New Zealand, who were beaten by Team GB earlier in the day to conclude the Pool Stage, still could not find the requisite gear needed to move on. Fiji, motivated by a burning desire to win their nation's first ever Olympic medal, came roaring out to a 5-0 lead just moments in when Osea Kolinisau ran in for a score. However, the All Blacks showed their class and went ahead 7-5 just before the break when Gillies Kaka scored and Augustine Pulu converted.
In spite of the momentum boost just before the interval, the game's defining moment came less than two minutes into the second period when Jerry Tuwai scampered in and Kolinisau converted, making it 12-7 in favor of the Fijians. For the remaining five minutes, the eventual winners defended stoutly, and would not concede.
12-7 scoreline persists as France falls to Japan
The next quarterfinal finished with an identical scoreline, as Japan defeated France 12-7 after tries from Teruya Goto and Lote Tuqiri.
Although a Damien Cler try and Terry Bouhraoua conversion had made it 7-0 in favor of France at the half, Tuqiri got Japan back into the game less than a minute following the restart. Yet, the conversion was missed, and the result remained in doubt until the last minute of action when Goto went over to seal another famous victory for Japan.
Team GB triumph in extra time
The pattern of tight, cagey, tactical battles continued into the third quarterfinal of the day when Team GB managed to defeat Argentina by a 5-0 margin. The game was scoreless at the end of normal time, although Argentina had a brilliant chance to win as the clock hit zero in the second period when Gaston Revol missed a penalty kick at goal. The Argentines were made to pay for the missed opportunity in extra time when Dan Bibby went over for a score to seal the 5-0 victory.
Australia run out of gas against South Africa
In the afternoon's final quarterfinal, Australia and South Africa played each other for the second time in the same day. However, the result was turned on its head the second time around. Though the Wallabies won 12-5 in the morning, the result was a 22-5 reversal in the evening. South Africa led 10-5 at the half on tries from Rosko Specman and Seabelo Senatla.
Though Tom Cusack pulled a score back for Australia just before the half, they simply did not have enough left in the tank to fight back in the second period. Quickfire tries from Kyle Brown and Senatla again sealed the 22-5 victory for the Springboks Sevens.
End of the road for Team USA
Team USA, an outside medal contender, fell to Fiji 24-19 in their third match in Pool A. The United States knew that, even if they lost, so long as it was by three points or less, they would move on to the quarterfinals. However, they were unable to get the better of Fiji in the day's most exciting encounter.
The United States went ahead midway through the first half when Danny Barrett went over for a try and Madison Hughes converted to make it 7-0. For the rest of the first period, the Americans seemed incapable of defending Fiji, and tries from Kolinisau and Vatemo Ravouvou put them ahead 12-7.
Yet, the nation leading the medal count fought back after the break, and a try from Perry Baker less than a minute in gave them hope and a 14-12 lead. This rollercoaster ride masquerading as a game continued as Fiji scored two tries, one from Viliame Mata, and one from Semi Kunatani.
After Kunatani's try, there was less than two minutes left, and all seemed lost for Team USA. However, Nate Ebner got the ball in space immediately after the restart, and scampered downfield for a thrilling try. All eyes turned to Hughes, who had kicked flawlessly all throughout the match. However, Ebner had gone in right along the endline, leaving Hughes a nigh impossible angle to kick from, and his conversion hooked wide. The United States, even after sending on Carlin Isles, could not find another score, and their tournament ended in heartbreaking action.
Medal Round schedule
Fiji will play Japan in the first semifinal on Thursday at 14.30 local time, with Team GB to take on South Africa at 15.00 local time. The bronze medal match will commence at 18.30 before the gold medal match takes center stage at 19.00.