Fiji Owns the Hong Kong 7s



Mention Hong Kong 7s and the travel taste buds excite automatically. It’s a childhood dream for any boy who tosses an empty PET soft drink bottle, flip flop or coconut in the village rara to one day wear the white jersey and play for Fiji in Hong Kong.

And for thousands of others, it is dream trip to the ‘mecca’ of rugby sevens to watch the Fijians in action against the best in the world at So Kon Po.

My journey to check-in at Nadi Airport this year was filled with mixed feelings as I got turned away from the counter last year because a travel agent messed up my bookings and I missed the flight to Hong Kong – Yes, can you imagine that.

I made sure nothing like that was on the menu this time as I was looking forward to a five-peat in Hong Kong.

The Fiji 7s team has had the best home run in Hong Kong this decade – we had a great 2012 and in 2013 Osea Kolinisau ignited a massive comeback after many pundits thought Wales were on track for their maiden Happy Valley glory at halftime of the final.

We failed to notch the three-peat in 2014 but Ben Ryan returned in 2015 and started the latest Fijian juggernaut in Hong Kong where we have been Kings of Hong Kong 7s five years in a row – a feat no other nation has managed.

Ra man, Paula Dranisinukula and his team had the weight of a nation on them with sky-high expectations from Fijian fans about winning the Hong Kong 7s.

As the team left Nadi, there was an air of confidence and talk of history, record smashing, etc. were on the lips of ardent fans. Gareth had done his part and after missing out on three big titles in 2018 he knew a win in Hong Kong would easily see everyone forget all the past losses.

But, if anyone thinks it was easy – forget it. All teams were gunning for Fiji, and no one else in Hong Kong 2019. The hype had built around Fiji because this young team was setting the sevens world on fire with their sublime style of play.

The offload game of our stars including the skipper, Mocenacagi, Derenalagi, Botitu and Tuwai kept the opposition guessing and they just knew when to turn the screw and put the foot on the throat.

Police playmaker, Livai Ikanikoda slotted in perfectly in the team after showing scintillating form on the local scene.

The buildup to Hong Kong was a step up especially after an astonishing show to raise the Hamilton title and turning on the money performance in the North American leg, especially in Vancouver. And then there was the Christchurch mosque shooting which felt close to Fijians hearts as some of our own perished in that attack.

Fiji didn’t start off the blocks in top gear in Hong Kong but lady luck was on our side. Thankfully our rookies in Hong Kong stood up to the test and performed very well; Ratu Meli Derenalagi, alongside Vilimoni Botitu and Aminiasi Tuimaba were sensational. Seasoned campaigner, Jerry Tuwai was at his usual best and his guidance around the park for the team was invaluable.

New Captain, Paula Dranisinukula led the team by example and showed he had the mana to be a great leader of men.

Off the back of a good outing in Vancouver, the Fiji 7s team had a tough assignment against the unpredictable Kenyans on a cool Friday evening in Hong Kong, but our boys stood up to the test

The trip back to Kowloon on the MTR was packed as usual and we Fiji fans knew a big day two awaited Fiji in the shape of Australia and perennial rivals New Zealand in expected blockbuster matches.

As Fiji 7s fans gathered together in the Hong Kong Stadium early the next morning, some I was told were up, ready and lining up as early as 5am for the Stadium gates to open at 7am all in a bid to secure the best seats in the house – the Fiji corner where all the teams exit after their games and where you see the ‘blue wiggers’ behind the North goal posts.

In fact a stroll on the lower level of the Hong Kong Stadium concourse would reveal a sea of Fiji 7s fans in white proudly displaying their noble banner blue. It seems like half of Suva had descended on Hong Kong.

Fiji blitzed Australia 31 – 12 to set up a mouth-watering pool finale against the All Blacks 7s and my friends from the New Zealand radio stations being former Fiji nationals were torn between two lovers – well as I have been boasting and have had the last laugh for the last four years, this time was another sweet victory 24 – 5.

Fiji whipped the boys in black, in fact, Scott Curry’s men simply had no answer to the swift running and offload game on that perfect Saturday evening. The night was a long one for many fans – Wan Chai rocked and this set up a great finals day.

Cup quarterfinal on day three against Argentina and a reminder was timely; the Pumas 7s team has spoilt a few of our parties before – remember 2000 when we just needed to win the cup quarterfinal in the final tournament and Argentina beat us, paving the way for New Zealand to claim another World Rugby 7s Series crown.

On this day, Santiago Gomez-Cora’s side came close, very close and nearly caused the upset of the tournament 29 – 25, but we survived another torrid test. As they say, defence wins games and you had to give it to our boys who took their few opportunities and nailed the points when needed.

I always believe, no victory is sweet if you don’t topple a giant along the way. The US Eagles were soaring high – top of the HSBC World Rugby 7s Series points table and Mike Friday’s men were aiming to bag their first elusive Hong Kong 7s title.

The semifinal showdown brought out the absolute best in our gladiators for a 28 – 19 win which set Fiji up for one last match to chalk up our name in the annals of Hong Kong 7s history.

One comment on social media that made me laugh out loud before the Fiji vs France Hong Kong 7s Cup final for the first time ever for the two nations was; “let’s prepare to curry the rooster today”.

While the French were no pushover Fiji simply had too much firepower and the hunger in the side from the start saw them execute well and deliver a famous 21 – 7 win.

It’s a known fact that thousands of cartons of Fiji Bitter are sold and consumed over the three days of every Hong Kong 7s and I am certain Fiji fans went into overdrive after that hugely popular victory.

It was a great spectacle – to be in Hong Kong at their National Stadium hearing our national anthem before the final is hair-raising stuff. And later to put the French Rooster to the sword and lift the holy grail of sevens titles WOW amazing!

The style of rugby 7s Gareth Baber’s Fiji team played in Hong Kong 2019 captured the hearts of fans all over the world.

Take it from me – nothing beats the Hong Kong 7s atmosphere, from the Stadium to the local markets where you can enjoy the best Chinese delicacies on the streets, plus the famous watering hole suburb of Wan Chai.

You must try to get there one day soon – make the Hong Kong 7s a must on your bucket list and why not – another Fiji title for a sixth straight year in Hong Kong – Yes, they can in 2020. – Satish Narain


The opening day of the tournament saw the first eight games of the pool stage. The United States – favourites for the tournament got off to a good start by defeating Spain 36 – 7 in their opening match. England survived an early scare in their match against Wales after falling behind by 14 points in the first half before coming back to win the match 36 – 19 with Dan Norton breaking the all-time leading try scorer record.

The All Blacks 7s team paid tribute to the victims of the Christchurch massacre by wearing white instead of their traditional black as they dumped Australia 9 – 40.

Fiji began their defence of the title as they defeated Kenya 22–5 in the other match of Pool C in what was a repeat of last year’s final.[13] 

France smashed Portugal 40–7 while South Africa was given an early scare in their 22–7 win over Japan. The other two games saw Samoa and Argentina record wins over their opposition.[13]

Day 2

The second day of the tournament saw the remaining 16 pool games being played with the main action in Pool D with the USA losing to Wales despite a hat-trick from Carlin Isles. Lucky for them Spain tripped up Wales by 16 points for USA to sneak through on a better points differential.

Fiji kept their unprecedented drive for five-in-a-row Hong Kong 7s titles alive after topping Pool C following a win over the All Blacks 7s in what was described as the “group of death”. Earlier Fiji zapped Australia 31 – 12 with New Zealand finishing second after they dispatched Kenya 36 nil to qualify through to the Cup quarterfinals.

France finished top of Pool B after they came from seven points down in the match against Argentina to record a 26–14 which featured four different try scorers. Argentina would join them in the quarters after getting past Portugal in what was a tough match for Argentina. This was due to them being down by 14 points early in the second half before recovering to a 26–21 win with a Luciano Gonzalez try with only two minutes left on the clock.[17] 
South Africa also remained perfect in the quest for their first Hong Kong title after they finished top of Pool A with a 21–7 over fellow qualifiers Samoa. For Scotland and Japan they were relegated to the challenge trophy after losing their second matches earlier in the pool.[18]

Day 3

The third day of competition saw the tournament head to the knockout phase of the competition. The quarter finals saw an upset in the final quarter final match with France defeating New Zealand for the first time at the event. Manoel Dall’igna from the French team responded, “we played like a team, played very well together,” in the 14–12 victory.[19] Fiji received a massive shock in their quarter final match with the team going down 12–0 early in the first half. Two tries from Paula Dranisinukula brought Fiji back into the match as they levelled with their opponents at the half. The second half saw the Fijians taking the lead and ending up winners by five points. South Africa attempt to win their first Hong Kong Sevens ended with a loss against the United States while Samoa defeated England 14–12 after Dan Bibby had to be carried off the field in the first half.[20]

In the semi finals, Fiji defeated the Americans by nine points in the first semi final to book a spot in their fifth consecutive Hong Kong final. Sevuloni Mocenacagi opened the scoring for Fiji in the second minute of play before Carlin Isles scored his first of two tries for the game to level the match. The Fijians scored tries either side of the half to give them the victory and a spot in the cup final.[21] Their opponent in the final was France who made it to their second consecutive cup final for the season after dispatching Samoa in the other semi. The game which saw Samoa having to catch up after the French got the lead in the first minute from a Gabin Villière try. With the match see-sawing towards a result, a controversial try from Aurelien Callandret sealed the win for France despite replays showing the foot touching the line.[21]

Vilimoni Botitu opened the scoring for Fiji with a try in the fourth minute to give Fiji the early lead in the final against France. Fiji extended their lead at the end of the first half with Aminiasi Tuimaba scoring the first of two tries in the match to give Fiji a fourteen point lead at the break. A penalty try at the start of the second half gave France some hope. But Tuimaba got his second try of the match to give Fiji the win. This win saw Fiji became the first team to win five consecutive Hong Kong titles.[22] In the third place play-off, the United States defeated Samoa 22–10 as they had four different try scorers in the twelve point victory.[22]

In the World Series Qualifier, Ireland and Hong Kong met in the qualifier final to see who would qualify through to the World Series. This was after they had defeated Germany and Chile earlier in the day. Harry McNulty scored the first try in the third minute of play to give Ireland the lead. This was followed by tries from Greg O’Shea and Jordan Conroy at either end of the half time to give Ireland a 21 point advantage. From there they wouldn’t lose the lead despite Hong Kong getting a try back to give some sniff of a victory and for Ireland they received core status.[23]

Fiji 21 v 7 France
Cup semi finals
Fiji 28 v 19 USA
France 19 v 12 Samoa
Cup quarter finals
South Africa 12 v 21 USA
Fiji 29 v 24 Argentina
England 12 v 14 Samoa
France 14 v 12 NZ
Australia 26 v 21 Portugal
Scotland 19 v 17 Australia
Argentina 19 v 17 South Africa
NZ 17 v 10 England
Argentina 21 v 14 NZ 5&6
USA 22 v 10 Samoa 3&4
Fiji 22 v 5 Kenya
NZ 40 v 19 Australia
South Africa 22 v 7 Japan
Samoa 22 v 7 Scotland
Cook Islands 5 v 31 Chile
Russia 26 v 0 Uruguay
Russia 26 v 10 Jamaica
Ireland v Jamaica
Tonga 29 v 12 Zimbabwe
Tonga 36 v 17 Philippines
Tonga 12 v 19 Hong Kong
Tonga 12 v 15 Chile
Samoa 31 v 21 Japan
South Africa 26 v 10 Scotland
NZ 36 v 0 Kenya
Australia 12 v 31 Fiji
South Africa 21 v 7 Samoa
Australia 28 v 12 Kenya
Fiji 24 v 5 NZ
HK7s Tonga 29 v 12 Zimbabwe and Tonga 36 v 17 Philippines, Fiji 22 v 5 Kenya, NZ 40 v 19 Australia, Samoa 22 v 7 Scotland. Tonga were unlucky to get a red card against Hong Kong yesterday which cost them the game Tonga 12 v 19 Hong Kong and then they lost 12 v 15 Chile so are out.

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