Napoli 2019: Double gold for Japan in Rugby Sevens
NAPOLI, 7 July – The Rugby Sevens came to a close this evening after three days of competition, with Japan taking gold in both the men’s and women’s events. In two hugely entertaining finals at Villaggio del Rugby, the men’s fixture saw Japan beat South Africa 15-12, while moments later the Japan women’s team made it two from two as they beat France 33-7.
In the men’s final, a gripping encounter from start to finish saw the pace and trickery of Japan just edge out their opponents. Having already trailed 5-0 at the halfway mark, South Africa left it too late for any possible comeback, with Japan’s three tries helping them over the finish line.
FISU spoke to Japan captain Hideto Niguma, who guided his side to the gold medal.
“It’s awesome, it’s a good feeling,” said Niguma. “It’s probably the toughest game we’ve played in this tournament.
“We planned to get this far, and trained very hard to get to the final,” added the 21-year-old. “So it paid off for us.”
“We had a lot of confidence going into this last game. We just believed in what we were doing, and it worked for us.”
The women’s final was, however, a different story, with Japan simply too strong for their opponents. Already 21-7 up at halftime, Japan didn’t stop there, and ran over five tries to overcome a fatigued French side.
The champions ended the tournament undefeated, winning all three group games – including a 24-17 victory over France earlier in the competition – along with a 31-12 win over Russia in the semifinals this morning.
Gold medal winner Yume Hirano expressed her delight at the achievement.
“I am very happy for this medal,” said Hirano. “Every game has been hard, and this one was also very difficult.
“We are very proud.”
Undoubtedly very happy with the victory, the Nippon Sport Science University student also touched on her high hopes for the future.
“I will try and go to the Olympics and win the gold medal.”
Earlier in the evening, France edged out Russia 12-10 to clinch the bronze medal in the men’s event. France will, however, count themselves unlucky not to have finished higher in the standings having lost just 5-0 to South Africa in the semifinals earlier this morning, but they will undoubtedly be satisfied with third place after having to come from behind in an exciting bronze meeting with Russia.
Russia were also in action in the women’s bronze match, and now it was their time to celebrate as they held out to beat South Africa 12-10 and finish third in the competition. The Russians had extra reason to smile at the end, having lost to South Africa in their group match earlier this week.
In a remarkable turn of events, both of the men’s groups somehow ended in a three-way tie for first place, yet it was South Africa and Japan who went through due to their superior points difference. Both sides ended top of their groups after two victories and one loss, with Japan eventually going all the way in an extremely closely-fought competition.
Extraordinarily, the women’s groups also ended identically, with South Africa and Japan coming top of Pools A and B respectively with three wins from three, with the former then losing out to France 19-12 in the second semifinal this morning.
In a fascinating few days of action at Villaggio del Rugby, it was Japan, France, South Africa and Russia who showed their dominance in the event, making it into the last four of the men’s and women’s competitions. It was, however, Japan who came out on top on both occasions.
By U Media Reporter Peter Lynch – FISU Young Reporters Programme Alumnus.