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May 31, 2020

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UPCOMING OLYMPIC GAMES

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Fiji began the defence of their HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title in ominous fashion as they beat England 28-17 in the final to claim victory at the opening event of the season in Dubai today.

The Pacific Islanders fell behind early on as Tom Bowen went over for England before Savenaca Rawaca levelled proceedings at 7-7 shortly after.

From that point on, the Fijians seized control of the match and turned the contest on its head when Jasa Veremalua picked up a neat offload from Vatemo Ravouvou to give his side a 14-7 advantage.

Isake Katonibau continued the superb showing from Fiji in the first half by adding their third try after just 10 minutes, with Ravouvou converting to extend their lead to 21-7.

There was still time for Fiji, led by coach Ben Ryan, who formerly in charge of England for 56 Sevens Series tournaments, to score a fourth and it came thanks to Jerry Tuwai and when Ravouvou added the extras, the defending champions looked out of sight.

Trailing 28-7, England were able to launch a spirited fightback as Bowen scored his second try of the game before Phil Burgess got his name on the scoresheet to cut the deficit to 11.

Their efforts proved to be too little, too late however as Fiji saw out a commanding win to cap off an excellent display during the two-day event in Dubai with their fourth title in six visits to the competition in the United Arab Emirates.

England reached the final thanks to Phil Burgess' late try in a dramatic 24-19 victory over the United States ©World Rugby

The United States, the tournament’s surprise package, claimed third place as they beat New Zealand for the second time at the event, running in five tries in a dominant 31-12 success.

The Americans, who are being mentored by the four-time Olympic sprint gold medallist Michael Johnson, had earlier been involved in perhaps the most thrilling contest of the competition as they raced into a 12-0 lead in their semi-final with England thanks to tries from Matai Leuta and Zack Test.

JP Watkins and Richard de Carpentier then hauled England back into contention, restoring parity at 12-12, before the topsy-turvy nature of the pulsating last four encounter continued as Maka Unufe put the Americans, who beat holders South Africa in the quarter-finals, back in front.

As the match headed towards a dramatic finale, Alex Gray squared the semi-final at 19-19 and Burgess then scored a late try to break American hearts and send England through to face Fiji, who had overcome New Zealand 19-5 in their last four match.

On an enthralling final day, Francois Hougaard went over in extra-time to hand South Africa the Plate with a last-gasp 24-19 victory over Australia.

France won the Bowl by ousting Scotland 21-14, while Canada claimed the Shield trophy by beating Japan 19-17.

The next World Rugby Sevens Series event is due to take place in Cape Town from December 12 to 13.

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