Spain upset the odds to defeat top seeds Samoa 22-19 in a dramatic Monaco Sevens Cup final to book the final men’s place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Capping a weekend of outstanding performances where the form book was comprehensively torn-up, Ignacio Martin was Spain’s hero, scoring a last-gasp try to secure an historic victory in a pulsating match at Stade Louis II.
Victory confirmed the Olympic dreams of an experienced team, but even the players could not quite comprehend what they had achieved.
“I am still trying to take it in,” said Angel Lopez.
“This is a dream for us. We are going to be Olympians. We believed that we are good enough, but wow, this is pretty special.”
“We now have a month to prepare for Rio 2016. We will be very motivated and determined to do our nation, our family and Spanish rugby proud.”
Spain, who impressed on day one and defeated a spirited Ireland side in quarter-finals, dominated the opening exchanges and led 12-0 through tries by Carron Llorens and Hernadez Jimenez, but Samoa hit back with two quick tries by Samoa and Fidow to lead 12-14 at the interval. After the break, Samoa forged into a 19-12 lead, but Spain refused to buckle and scored through Pol Pla, before Martin’s try created rugby history for his team.
Winning silver may not have been consolation for Samoa, but their end of season form, winning the Paris Sevens will set them up for the next series season and they will now look to Tokyo 2020, along with Russia, who defeated Germany 22-12 to win bronze medal. Germany, along with Ireland, were the surprise package of a glorious weekend of international sevens in the Principality.
Canada ended a disappointing campaign fifth, losing to Russia in the quarter-finals, before restoring pride with a 24-17 win over Hong Kong. In the other positional play-offs, Zimbabwe lifted the Challenge Trophy, defeating Tonga 31-5, while South Korea defeated Sri Lanka, 31-24 to finish 13th.
While Olympic dreams were ultimately dashed for all but one of the teams, the spirit of camaraderie shone throughout on another hot day in Monaco.
Confirmation of the final qualifier, caps a compelling process that has spanned nearly two years and delivered excitement, drama, star performances and tries aplenty.
World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “Congratulations to Spain on qualification for Rio 2016 and completing the line-up of 12 men’s teams who will represent rugby on sport’s biggest and most famous stage.
“All the teams showed the very best of our sport and its character-building values at the Monaco Sevens and rugby has certainly been the winner throughout a truly compelling final qualifier weekend.
“We can now look forward to the women’s final qualifier in Dublin next weekend and a game-changing Rio 2016 Olympic Games that will enable rugby to reach and inspire new audiences worldwide.
“I would like to thank His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco for his support of this magnificent tournament.”
Attention now turns to the women’s global repechage in Dublin next weekend where the 12th and final team for Rio 2016 will be decided.
Final list of Mens Sevens qualifers for Rio Olympics 2016: Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand, Great Britain, Australia, USA, Argentina, France, Kenya, Japan, Brazil, Spain