Reigning World Series champions Fiji fought back from a 15-0 halftime deficit with a scintillating display of counter-attacking rugby to beat Australia 21-15 in the final of the Las Vegas Sevens on Sunday.
Their second tournament win of the season sent Fiji clear at the top of the series standings and was a timely boost for the Pacific Island nation, where last month Cyclone Winston left at least 42 people dead and more than 62,000 homeless.
On a blustery day at Sam Boyd Stadium, Australia dominated territorially right from the start and Sam Myers capped off a wave of attacks when he crossed the line from the left to put his team in front.
Fiji were left short-handed after a dangerous tip tackle and the Wallabies took full advantage as first Ed Jenkins powered down the left wing to score and then Cameron Clark cut through to follow suit to establish a halftime lead of 15-0.
Playing into the wind, the Fijians finally put points on the board when Kitione Taliga, off the bench, ran the entire length of the field to score under the posts.
As the Fijians built much-needed momentum, Teliga scored again after another brilliant counter-attack to reduce the deficit to 15-14.
Australia seemed set for another score soon after but Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper lost possession just short of the try line and Fiji were once again ruthless on the counter attack as Savenaca Rawaca stormed down the right to make it 21-15. “One week after the cyclone struck, we went back into camp and all the players said we were going to play,” said Man of the Match Osea Kolinisau. “I reminded the boys this week that we needed to remember the people back home who were victims … that we needed to give them something to be happy about after all the devastation.” Fiji earlier overcame hosts the United States 21-14 in the first semi-final before Australia beat three-time USA Sevens champions South Africa 14-12 in a see-sawing encounter.
South Africa, who paid a steep price for some dirty play against Australia in the last four, outclassed the US 21-10 in the third-place playoff.
Fiji lead the series with 91 points, five points clear of South Africa with New Zealand third on 82 after the fifth stop on the 10-tournament circuit.
The World Series is providing a showcase for sevens as it prepares for its debut at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.