USA win over Fiji secures top-six finish to Rio 2016 Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO - Team USA's Rugby Sevens squad at the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games will play for a fifth-place world ranking at Deodoro Stadium Monday following a 12-7 defeat of Fiji in the placing Semifinal.

Fiji handed the U.S. its first defeat in Brazil during pool play Saturday, a result that kept Richie Walker's squad from a higher seeding in the Quarterfinals. The Americans' outstanding draw with No. 1 Australia preceded a 5-0 knockout loss to No. 2 New Zealand, setting up the road to fifth place. The team's final match of the first Rugby Sevens competition at a Summer Olympics is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET against France, with the broadcast available to viewers in the United States on CNBC.

With Rugby Sevens making its debut in Rio and the women's event occurring first, the 12 teams competing were already carrying the weight of the worldwide community on their shoulders. In the U.S.'s first match against Fiji, it was the nation without a medal - not the nation with the most - that performed well enough to win. Team USA was better prepared for the Fiji challenge Monday after having played the best teams on the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series back to back, and kept the opponent from breaking through the gain line with its offloading style of play.

Handling errors and ill-disciplined play in the tackle area kept the U.S. from potent attacks in the opening minutes, but Fiji searched for another way around the defense with a kick to touch from a penalty in the third minute. Kathryn Johnson stole the set piece, but the team was unable to escape its defensive third before losing the ball and drawing the referee's whistle for offside. Fiji set up across the five-meter line for the tap and a simple pass saw Rebecca Tavo over the try line for the 7-0 lead.

Team USA kept most of the possession following the try, but Fiji held onto its lead at the break when the U.S. fumbled the ball inside the opposition's half ahead of the half-time whistle.

"We were still holding on to the results from yesterday in the first half, and I had to remind them why we were here before the second half," Walker said of his half-time team talk post-match. "If they stick to the game plan Fiji will get tired, and we had to trust our fitness. That's what they did. They continued to attack forward in the second half."

Fresh-legged substitutes Ryan Carlyle and Jessica Javelet continued the trend of shutting down Fiji on the attack in the opening minutes of the second half, and both used their first touches to gain positive meters. Alev Kelter burst through the gain line at the U.S. 10 in the 10th minute with a fend and beat the Fijian defense to the posts to level the match at 7-7.

Richelle Stephens, the youngest American Rugby Sevens Olympian, gave Team USA the lead in the 12th minute when she and Johnson attacked the Fiji defense along the touch line. She made the initial pass to her teammate before Johnson took contact and offloaded on her way into touch for Stephens to dive over the line. Bui Baravilala was unable to convert the try, however, giving the U.S. a nail-biting, 12-7, lead with two minutes to play.

Nails were not any safer when the ensuing restart did not travel the required 10 meters, but Fiji could not reach the try zone before giving up possession at the hooter with a penalty. The U.S. kicked the ball into touch to bring the final whistle.

Team USA moves to 2-1-2 after five matches in the Rio 2016 Rugby Sevens competition, and faces its final opponent, France, in the fifth-place Final at 5 p.m. ET on CNBC. The match can also be viewed live online via NBCOlympics.com with valid credentials.

"I just want them to go out on their last game and create a legacy for themselves," Walker said. "They need to make sure that everything they do in that last game is a performance of all the hard work they've done since they've been at the Olympic Training Center, whether it's been one year or four.

"They'll be able to get up for the game now that they've had a win after a draw and tough loss; they'll be able to give everything they have. They know this is the last match. There's no reason to hold on to anything. If we can finish on a strong note they will do the nation proud."

Team USA Rugby Sevens Squad | v. Fiji
1. Jillion Potter
2. Kelly Griffin
3. Kathryn Johnson
4. Alev Kelter
5. Bui Baravilala
6. Lauren Doyle
7. Victoria Folayan
8. Carmen Farmer
9. Joanne Fa'avesi
10. Richelle Stephens
11. Ryan Carlyle
12. Jessica Javelet

Team USA Rugby Sevens Squad | Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games
v. Fiji - L 12-7
v. Colombia - W 48-0
v. Australia - D 12-12
Quarterfinal v. New Zealand - L 5-0
Fifth-place Semifinal v. Fiji - W 12-7
Fifth-place Final v. France - Monday, Aug. 8 @ 5 p.m. ET