Australia tops Fiji in thriller to win Hong Kong Sevens

HONG KONG (AP) — Australia beat Fiji 20-17 to win the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens on Sunday, denying the Fijians a sixth consecutive title.

Fiji started the stronger side, jumping out to an early 12-0 lead through Josua Vakurunabili and Waisea Nacuqu, and appeared assured of building on its 36-game winning streak in Hong Kong.

But Henry Hutchison replied for Australia to reduce the deficit to 12-5 at the break. The second half started with another Australia score courtesy of Tim Clements before Nacuqu replied for Fiji to extend the gap once again.

But a yellow card to Fiji's Joseva Talacolo appeared to swing the match in Australia's favor with Hutchison touching down a short time later to close the gap to 17-15.

Nathan Lawson completed the comeback after sprinting down the left flank to touch down at the corner flag in the dying seconds to secure gold in a thrilling final.

Earlier, France beat Samoa 19-17 in the Bronze final and Argentina shut out the U.S. 36-0 in the Plate final.

After an unbeaten record in pool play, Fiji beat South Africa 12-7 in a quarterfinal and Samoa 19-7 in a bruising all-Pacific semifinal to reach the final for the seventh time in eight editions of the oldest tournament in the World Series.

Australia, meanwhile, won both its quarterfinal and semifinal after fulltime, relying on Maurice Longbottom for the winning score in both matches.

Longbottom scored the match-winning try after the fulltime siren in Australia’s 26-19 quarterfinal win over Ireland, then kicked a penalty in extra-time to give Australia a thrilling 8-7 win over France in its semifinal.

Fiji was impressive in its semifinal win over previously-unbeaten Samoa but ended up falling just short to an inspired Australia squad playing in its first Hong Kong final since 1994.

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