Tokyo Olympics rugby in review: Powerhouses claim gold

Posted at 11:37 PM, Aug 02, 2021

Rugby sevens didn’t disappoint with its fast-paced action at the 2020 Games. Matches featured their fair share of upsets, blood and hard-earned tries. 

FULL REPLAYS: Men’s medal matches I Women's medal matches l Men's semifinal matches l Women's semifinal matches

Men's tournament

Gold: Fiji
Silver: New Zealand
Bronze: Argentina

Fiji was able to successfully defend its gold medal from 2016. The small island nation, where rugby sevens is the national sport, defeated New Zealand 27-12. Captain Jerry Tuwai was the only returning player for Fiji and became the first player to win back-to-back gold medals in rugby sevens. The men’s squad was away from their families training for several months before the Games, due to COVID-19 protocols, which made the win that much more emotional.

Argentina’s Marcos Moneta tied American Carlin Isles’ six-try Olympic record. It was Argentina and New Zealand’s first medal in men’s rugby sevens. Argentina reached the bronze medal match by upsetting South Africa, the defending bronze medalists.

SEE MORE: Fiji's emotional men's rugby medal ceremony

U.S. Men

After failing to advance to the knockout stages in Rio, the expectations were high for the men’s squad heading to Tokyo. The men went 2-1 in pool play, beating Kenya and Ireland but losing to South Africa.

The men lost a heartbreaker in the quarterfinal match to Great Britain. The U.S. squad looked like they were sailing to victory with a 21-0 lead, but the Brits stormed back to win 26-21.

The team was never able to find their form in Tokyo. Speedy wings Isles and Perry Baker were non-factors for most of the tournament. The U.S. beat Canada, but fell to South Africa again, to finish the tournament in 6th place overall.

SEE MORE: New Zealand Black Ferns win gold with win over France

Women's tournament

Gold: New Zealand
Silver: France
Bronze: Fiji

New Zealand was seeking redemption five years after suffering a surprise loss to Australia in the final in 2016. The black ferns didn’t hold back, defeating France, 26-12, to win the gold medal. It’s the first gold medal for New Zealand in rugby. Kiwi Michaela Blyde continued her outstanding tournament, scoring her seventh try of the Games in the match.

After the win, the women performed the ceremonial haka, with a passion second-to-none.

SEE MORE: New Zealand women's rugby team performs haka after gold win

Fiji pulled off a surprise upset over Australia in the quarterfinal match en route to the bronze medal game. The semifinal match between New Zealand and Fiji was one of the best matches of the tournament, with both teams putting on a defense clinic. Fiji’s Reapi Ulunisau, in the embodiment of Fiji's heart this tournament, scored in the last second to send the match to extra time, but New Zealand ultimately emerged victorious.  

The reigning silver medalists in Great Britain easily handled the Americans in their quarterfinal match, but then lost to France in the semifinals to play for bronze.

In the bronze medal match, Fiji defeated Great Britain for the country’s third-ever Olympic medal (the other two being in men’s rugby sevens). It was quite an improvement for the squad, which finished 8th in Rio.

SEE MORE: Fiji tops Great Britain for bronze in women's rugby

U.S. Women

The United States lost in the quarterfinals to Great Britain, 21-12. A disappointment for the team, which was expected to contend for a gold medal. The U.S. finished 6th overall, after losing to Australia in the placement match, 17-7.

The U.S. women did win Pool C, going a perfect 3-0. Their toughest and arguably most well-played match of the tournament came against Australia, in the final match of group play.

Just a few days after returning home from Tokyo, USA Rugby announced that head coach Chris Brown was leaving the women’s sevens program to pursue other opportunities.

SEE MORE: Team USA's Ilona Maher shines in rugby and on TikTok