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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Led by Jerry Tuwai, world-class Fiji are too strong for England in Dubai Rugby Sevens final

Fiji's Jerry Tuwai avoids the tackle of England's Tom Bowen during their rugby final match in Dubai. World champions Fiji won the Dubai Sevens with a 28-17 victory. AFP
Fiji's Jerry Tuwai avoids the tackle of England's Tom Bowen during their rugby final match in Dubai. World champions Fiji won the Dubai Sevens with a 28-17 victory. AFP

DUBAI // Jerry Tuwai, the Fijian maestro who learnt rugby on a roundabout in a settlement in Suva, led the world series champions back to the top of the podium at the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens on Saturday night.

The Fijians dominated the competition, and they added the gloss with a rampant 28-17 win over England in a bruising final at The Sevens.

Tuwai, their quick-stepping playmaker, scored the decisive try on the brink of half time, and it was stunning in its execution.

Read more: Catch all of The National’s Dubai Sevens preview coverage here

Read more: Paul Radley on the remarkable return of Scotland’s Thom Evans at Dubai Sevens

When he first got his hands on the ball, there was no discernible gap in the England defence. Having spent his formative years fighting for room on that roundabout, though, he has long been adept at finding space.

A couple of rapid jinks later, he was simultaneously dotting the ball down and crashing into the goalpost.

He pointed to the sky and said a prayer, while the rest of his side celebrated as though the game was won.

At 28-7, it was as good as over.

Victory was a fourth in six years for Ben Ryan – two as coach of England, as well as the first two times Fiji have won world series titles in Dubai.

“He got into the team by luck last year, because one of the other players failed a fitness test, and from there he has just carried on,” Ryan said of Tuwai.

“He lives in a settlement in Suva. I have been to his house. He grew up playing rugby on a roundabout near his house in the settlement.

“He lives in one room with his family. Winning the world series didn’t give him a lot of money, but it gave him a couple of thousand pounds bonus which gave them the ability to have some running water in their house, which they hadn’t got.”

Tuwai is just the sort of talent which is usually spirited away from Fiji as soon as they are noticed, to take up contracts abroad that can be life-changing back at home.

Ryan has no truck with players that do take up offers to play in France, or Japan, or even Sri Lanka, but he does hope the side he takes to the Olympics next summer will be players mostly based on the islands.

“They are the players who are winning games for us out there, so you can understand why Fiji do what they do on the field,” Ryan said.

“It means a lot to them. People will be celebrating hard back at home. It is going to help put food on the table, and I am not exaggerating that.”

Simon Amor, coach of the defeated England side, said his team had been beaten by an irresistible force.

“When you get to the final, you want to be there lifting the trophy. But I could not have been prouder of the effort the boys put in over the tournament,” Amor said.

“Ultimately, that is a very, very good, world series-winning Fiji team, with loads of world-class players, so to push them close in the final was credit to them.”

The United States, who have been the revelation of the recent history of sevens, claimed third place when they beat an injury-hit New Zealand side. They had lost 28 consecutive world series matches against the All Black Sevens before this weekend. Now they are on a two-match winning streak against the sport’s most successful nation.

“We are a Tier 2 nation, and we are trying to fight our way in to be with the Tier 1 nations in the world series,” said Mike Friday, the United States coach.

pradley@thenational.ae​

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