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Olympics: Fiji secure first ever medal, Britain await in final
[RIO DE JANEIRO] Fiji made sure of a first ever Olympic medal when they comfortably beat Japan to set up a rugby sevens final against Britain on Thursday.
Japan, who'd never previously made it to a semi-finals on the 10-leg Sevens World Series, will play South Africa in the bronze medal match.
Fiji's star man Semi Kunatani said the Olympic tournament was like playing "six finals in a row".
"We're just focusing on the next game. I'm really excited to play in the final," he said.
Pacific nation Fiji had never previously won a medal of any colour but hopes are high that the reigning Sevens World Series champions can strike gold in rugby's Olympic return.
Japan's Brave Blossoms, who pulled off the shock of the men's tournament by beating New Zealand in their opening pool match, had no answer for Fiji's slick off-loading game at a sun-kissed Deodoro Stadium.
Kunatani's delightful back-of-the-hand pass sent Vatemo Ravouvou in for the first of the islanders' tries.
Kunatani was then yellow-carded for a late shoulder charge, gifting Japan a numerical advantage that they quickly capitalised on, Teruya Goto skinning the covering defence down the left flank for a great try.
Toulon's bullocking winger Josua Tuisova restored Fiji's lead, skipping through two lame tackles for a try in the corner that made it 10-5 at half-time.
Kunatani crossed for a crucial try early in the second period after some magical one-handed passing between Jasa Veremalua and Leone Nakarawa, made all the more remarkable by the fact the smallest of that trio, the try-scorer, measures a hulking 1.92m and weights 98kg.
With four minutes to play Japan's New Zealand-born playmaker Lomano Lemeki was sin-binned for a high tackle, and from the resulting penalty Jerry Tuwai was played in from a full 80 metres out as Fiji turned the screw and brought Japan's unlikely bid for sevens gold to an end.
"Physically I think we did all right. It's just those long limbs - they can off-load from anywhere. That's what killed us," said Lemeki.
"Bronze is the next goal." The other semi-final saw a lot more ball in contact as second seeds South Africa took on a combined British team featuring eight English, two Scots and two Welsh in their squad.
South African skipper Kyle Brown was the only name on the scoresheet in the first half as the Blitzboks harried the British.
Dan Norton's step and acceleration had the scores level, Tom Mitchell converting for a narrow lead.
The defining moment of the match came when Marcus Watson pulled off a great covering tackle as South African Cheslin Kolbe seemed set for a try.
And there was drama to come, Norton's clearance kick to touch deemed to have come before the final hooter.
South Africa won the line-out but a turnover in midfield ensured Britain went through to the final.