MAIDEN SEVENS RUGBY RECEIVE WARM WELCOME IN KUALA LUMPUR '98
KUALA LUMPUR, 15 sept 98 (Bernama):
BY Muammar Kamarudin
The Petaling Jaya stadium, the venue which can accommodate about 12,000 spectators was full yesterday -- the last day of the event. There were good crowds on other days, too. They had come to see rugby giants such as New Zealand, Fiji, Australia, Samoa, South Africa and England do battle.
The three-day event which began on Sept 12 saw 18 nations compete for gold, silver and bronze.
The atmosphere during the games was lively and full of excitement as many die-hard fans of New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, as well as the home crowd, danced and cheered and formed the Mexican wave.
Favourites New Zealand stole the show, winning the gold medal by beating the reigning sevens rugby world champion Fiji 21-12 yesterday in a tough battle.
Jonah Lomu, the giant Kiwi, proved that he still has the magic touch.
He was a crowd puller along with teammate Christian Cullen, the elusive Fijian captain Serevi Waisale, and the retiring Australian skipper, David Campese.
Lomu was unstoppable when he charged towards the touch down line and ramming pass through his opponents who tried to bring him down.
His presence was a plus for the Kiwis' team-work approach in the final match yesterday, as he acted as battering ram breaking the Fijian defence line and creating some chances for his teammate to make tries.
Australia grabbed the bronze medal yesterday when it beat another Pacific island team, Samoa, 33-12 in the third place play-off.
The spotlight was also on the Malaysian team. Their a never-give-up attitude and brilliant technique won many hearts.
They were cheered by the spectators as they performed well against the bigger and more experienced New Zealand and Fiji sides.
Malaysia entered the plate competition but failed to go into the final when they lost in the semifinal to Papua-New Guinea 5-35 after beating Swaziland 26-7 in the quarterfinal.
Malaysian coach Mark James said: "They played marvellously in the three-day competition against their much experienced opponents."
Papua-New Guinea coach Robin Tarere said he was surprised by the Malaysian never-say-die attitude on the pitch and he was a bit worried after Malaysia had taken the lead against his team in the semifinal.
"Malaysia are good in attack but their defence are a bit shaky under pressure. In two years time this team will be able to give a much better fight against the rugby giants," he said.