South Africa rally to beat Fiji 20-19 at Singapore Sevens
SINGAPORE (AP) — Selvyn Davids kicked a penalty with seconds left on the clock to cap an astonishing rally by South Africa who beat Fiji 20-19 Sunday in the final of the Singapore Rugby Sevens.
South Africa trailed 19-0 after a first half that was completely dominated by Fiji but turned the match around after halftime, matching Fiji’s three tries and snatching the win with the last-gasp goal.
In doing so they stopped Fiji backing up its win in last week’s Hong Kong sevens and becoming the first team to win the Singapore title in consecutive seasons. They beat Fiji for the first time in their last four finals meetings and shook up the overall World Series standings.
The United States, who were beaten 28-7 by England in the playoff for third place, retain first place but are only three points ahead of Fiji while New Zealand is third and South Africa moved clear of England in fourth place.
The top four teams after the remaining tournaments in London and Paris qualify automatically for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
A South African victory seemed impossible Sunday after a first half in which Fiji ran riot, exploiting handling errors and poor tackling to score three brilliant tries.
Aminiasi Tuimaba scored after two minutes, slipping a tackle and finishing a superb solo break for his 17th try in his last 18 matches.
Napolioni Balaca spun through another weak tackle to score in the fifth minute and Vilimoni Botitu capped an outstanding half for Fiji with a try from a five-meter scrum just before the break.
South Africa coach stirred up his young players during the halftime interval and they were a different team in the second half, eliminating errors and playing with much more focus.
Kurt-Lee Arendse showed his pace to score after three minutes and Angelo Davids caught a cross-filed kick pass from Justin Geduld to score in the fourth minute, making the score 19-10.
Fiji lost a man to a yellow card for a tackle after the try had been scored in a major boost to South Africa’s cause. Ryan Oostuizen’s took advantage with a try in the sixth minute that made the score 19-17.
Angelo Davids was tackled into touch in the corner with seconds left on the clock and it seemed that Fiji might hang on. But a penalty for offside gave South Africa a last chance and Selvyn Davids slotted the winning penalty.
“We basically said to each other at halftime that we’re still in it if we can get the first points on the board in the second half,” South Africa coach Neil Powell said. “These youngsters hang onto every single word that you tell them and well done to them, they’re very gutsy and showed it out there in the second half.”