Striders are the Crest Na Iri Women’s Champions in 2018 after a 19-12 victory over Hong Kong at Lawaqa Park.
This is Striders' sixth year at the Fiji Coral Coast Sevens but the big prize had eluded them until today.
Striders team Talica Vodo, named Player of the Tournament, could not stop smiling as she expressed her pride in the team.
“We are really proud because our aim was to finish in the top five to improve on our standard last year but we’re really happy we managed to win the tournament this year,” she said.
“It’s the first time some of them are playing in this type of big tournament so I’m really proud of everyone.”
The semi-finals saw the three internationals and, in a minor surprise, just one local team battle it out for a spot in the decider.
Hong Kong defeated Stars USA in a gripping finish which saw the Asian team run in a try after the siren to steal a 19-17 win.
In the second semi-final, Striders thumped Japan 29-7 in a result which saw last year's runners up outplayed across the park.
Vodo said they just followed the coach’s instructions.
“The coach just said enjoy the game and relax – that was the message – get the basics right and we did that.”
Hong Kong Women’s coach, Kevin West, was pleased with the resilience his team showed in facing a different style of rugby.
“One of the things we struggle with is we have a lot of Asian competition. To have to face different teams and have to adapt to the way different teams play and adapt our style, is a great challenge for us,” he said.
West is also keen to return in 2019.
“It’s been fantastic - we’ve got so much out of it. It’s well run, the competition standard is amazing and it’s a hard game, every game so we have learnt so much through the course of it.”
The Men’s competition also kicked off on Friday with 16 teams in four pools aiming for a shot at the prestigious trophy and the $20,000 first prize.
Unlike the Women’s competition, the international visitors struggled on the first day, notably Hong Kong who finished without a win.
Defending champions First Light Taveuni and crowd favorites Ratu Filise were among the strong performers.
Wardens joined those two teams in going through undefeated.
The quarter finals kick off at 10:00 tomorrow.
RESULTS OF THE CREST NA IRI TROPHY, Lawaqa Park
Striders 19 Hong Kong 12
Fijiana Makosoi 22 Nadi Aviators 21
QUARTER FINALS FOR THE MANA WHEY FIJI CORAL COAST SEVENS, Lawaqa Park
First Light Taveuni v Ravuka Sharks
Cross of Victory v Ratu Filise
Wardens v McDonalds Saunaka
Police v Shipping Services Suva Stallions
Shangi-La's Daveta v Outrigger
Tovolea v BLK Iron Courage
Stars USA v Hong Kong
Lomavata Blues v SRS Henibua
For complete results fijicoralcoastsevens.com
The Mana Whey Fiji Coral Coast Sevens is sponsored by MANA Whey Protein (Tabua sponsor), Tourism Fiji, Sigatoka River Safari (strategic partners), Crest, McDonald's, Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort, Uprising Fiji Beach Resort (prime partners), Bedarra Beach Inn, Gecko's Resort, Shangri-la's Fijian Resort & Spa (official hotels), CFL, Fiji Times, Fiji TV (media partners), Airports Fiji Ltd, Aqua Pacific, BLK, Bula Car Rentals, Du Aull Services, Hot Glass Fiji, Mana Graphix, Pacific Destinations, Quality Print, Slater Media, Sports Now, Sun Insurance, Tappoo and Vodafone (official suppliers).