TOKYO (AP) – At least one new team will stand on the Olympic rugby sevens podium in Tokyo after Argentina angered 2016 bronze medalist South Africa in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, immediately after silver medalists fell 21 points behind Britain the United States had recovered.
Defending champions Fiji crowned the second day of the competition with a 19-0 win over Australia, continuing their unbeaten streak in Olympic competition since the rugby seven debut in Rio de Janeiro.
The Fijians are next up against Argentina, who beat South Africa 19:14, and Britain faces first-placed New Zealand.
“We are suffering a lot from the pandemic and that is important to us,” said Fiji Captain Jerry Tuwai. “As the world knows, rugby is Fiji’s national sport. Defending the gold would be different – I think we would forget about the pandemic.
“Everyone would scream and be happy. But we have a big task ahead of us. Our focus is currently on Argentina in the semi-finals. “
The All Blacks team of seven were eliminated in the quarter-finals in Rio and are determined to make up for it in the medal rounds on Wednesday. The New Zealanders bounced back from a comeback win against Australia, which earned them first place in their group and the first 21 points in a 21-10 win over Canada in the quarter-finals.
The US scored the first 21 points, with Danny Barrett getting the first try and Perry Baker playing twice against Britain and appearing ready to enter the medal round but conceding four straight attempts to lose 26-21.
Britain lost to Fiji on Tuesday, finished second in Pool B and were close to another loss for at least half of the quarter-finals.
“Pretty unreal when you’re down like that,” said British player Robbie Fergusson. “We could have been down at halftime, but the result before halftime and the resilience in the second half are what we’re all about.
“When we have our backs against the wall, we seem to be at our best.”
The best the United States can do right now is fifth.
“It’s a heartache, especially to lose such a lead,” said American player Joe Schroeder. “That hurts.”
This is how South Africa’s captain Siviwe Soyizwapi described his team’s defeat against Argentina.
It was another setback for a squad who had to play the Olympic tournament without head coach Neil Powell, who was in quarantine outside Tokyo due to a positive COVID-19 test prior to the tournament. The players detained in a quarantine facility after arriving in Japan for a positive coronavirus test related to their flight were divided into two smaller groups before moving to Tokyo.
“It really hurt. It was a big blow to lose the coach – he’s the leader of the team, ”said Soyizwapi. “We tried to get it to work without him, but unfortunately we couldn’t do it all.”
US coach Mike Friday said his players were “burned out” over the loss but were on the right track after finishing ninth in Rio.
“Sevens is brutal … little moments, little referee calls either go your way or don’t go your way and that is the difference if you are in the medal rounds tomorrow,” he said. “Unfortunately we just got on the wrong side.”
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