New Zealand Rugby's strategic goal of two gold medals at this Olympics has come up well short, and the defeat by the men's team to Fiji in their quarter-final this morning will inevitably lead to change.

As far as the men's team is concerned, the organisation appeared unwilling to commit all its resources to winning gold. It was always going to be a juggling act given the All Blacks' importance to the game here, but loose forward Ardie Savea was allowed to leave the squad and concentrate on 15s - making his debut for the All Blacks soon after- and New Zealand Rugby, despite being his employers, admitted they were powerless to act.

It's unlikely that Savea, in stunning form for the All Blacks in June and the Hurricanes during their charge to the title, would have made much difference, but it was another indication of muddled thinking by the organisation in the lead-up to the Games which was replicated on the field by the men's team.

Credit must be given to the way the Australian women recovered from their 5-0 deficit to beat New Zealand 24-17 in their final, the Kiwis at least having the consolation of taking home a silver medal, but the men's team, under coach Sir Gordon Tietjens, were well off their game at this tournament, beating only Kenya and losing to Japan, Great Britain and Fiji.


Their 12-7 loss at the Deodoro Stadium this morning was not without its controversies, and unfortunately that has been a recurring theme at Rio. South African referee Rasta Rasivhenge awarded only one penalty to New Zealand, while consistently finding fault with Tietjens' men at the breakdown, and sinbinning Rieko Ioane for a tip-tackle. Meanwhile, Sam Dickson took a Fijian shoulder to a jaw in a potentially dangerous high tackle, and the transgressor was merely penalised.

The inconsistent refereeing was also clear to see in the women's final, when Spanish referee Alhambra Nievas made several odd decisions.

The breakdown at 15s can be a coin toss, but the sevens equivalent, which should be easier to officiate given the fewer players involved, has been a lottery and one can only sympathise with international viewers wondering what is going on.

Fiji played a smart game in refusing to engage with New Zealand. Tietjens banked on height and physicality to win it for his team; that's why the relatively short Kurt Baker was left at home despite his recent try-scoring record at the World Series, but the Fijians retained possession brilliantly despite often going backwards, and when they did go into contact they either got the better of New Zealand, which was surprising, or they won a breakdown penalty from Rasivhenge.

It was significant that New Zealand scored their try through a piece of individual brilliant by Gillies Kaka, who chipped over the defence and regathered. Other than that they had few attacking ideas largely because they couldn't win the ball. Their most powerful attacking weapon, Akira Ioane, was off the pitch for a time in the second half, and when he returned his failure to release the ball in a ruck at the final siren sealed the win for the jubilant Fijians.

There will probably be casualties from New Zealand's failure, but they are likely to come from the team's management rather than at NZ Rugby headquarters. When the Olympic sevens squads were announced at Eden Park last month, Tietjens was reluctant to talk about his future. The 60-year-old has been in charge for more than 20 years - in 2012 his contract was renewed to take him up to the Olympics - and that is a very long time as a head coach.

He has enjoyed many successes, but now might be the chance to appoint a new individual with new ideas, and it's likely that Tietjens will come to that decision himself.