Fijiana close in on medal after upset victory over Olympic champs

The Fijiana held off a late comeback from 2016 Olympic champions Australia 14-12 at the Tokyo Stadium to book a spot in the semi-final against New Zealand tomorrow, and a chance to pick up their first Olympic medal.

It will be the Fijiana’s first semi-final outing at the Olympics after finishing eighth in Rio five years ago.

Ably led by skipper Rusila Nagasau, the Fijiana forced the Aussies to concede penalties, they were solid in their defence, fluid in their offloads, and the steps to match, dictating the action from the start to get the first points on the scoreboard.

A smiling Alowesi Nakosi, with the ball on one hand and the other fend off tacklers, put the Fijiana in the lead within two minutes of the first half. The conversion was good and Fiji led 7-0. Ana Maria Naimasi with her deceptive steps scooted Fiji further ahead 14-0.

However, the Australians pulled one back by Faith Nathan aided by a depleted Fijiana outfit after Vasiti was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle. But, they were not able to capitalise further and scores remained 14-5 to the FIjiana at the breather. The Australians scored the only points of the second half and looked to have garnered the force for a comeback, but it was too late.

In an interview following the game, Naimasi dedicated the win to all Fijiana supporters in particular everyone in Fiji experiencing the devastating effects of COVID-19. She fought back tears as she spoke in the vernacular: “Na matavuvale ra tu mai Viti, vakavinavinaka vakalevu na veimasulaki …dina ni da sotava tu na dredre mai Viti…na COVID19. Vakavinavinaka vakalevu ena nomuni veitokoni ena timi ni Fijiana kei na masu. (To all the families in Fiji, thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your continued support towards the Fijiana and your prayers whilst dealing with hardships brought on by COVID19.)”

In the semi-final tomorrow, the Fijiana will play the Black Ferns at 2pm (Fiji Time) . New Zealand booked their spot following a convincing 36-0 victory over ROC in their Cup quarter-final.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Fijiana lost to Great Britain 26-7 in the quarters and were relegated to the 5-8th place playoffs, eventually finishing eighth.

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