The Kiwis fell short to Fiji in the Gold medal final, 27-12, who are now double Olympic champions, having won Gold in Rio in 2016.
It was a less than ideal start for New Zealand, who found themselves trailing 12-0 after three minutes, with Fiji pouncing on a couple of early mistakes.
However, inspirational co-captain Scott Curry struck back for his side, putting the hammer down to get New Zealand on the board.
It was short-lived as Fiji restored their advantage through speedster Josua Vakurinabili who boosted his way to the try-line.
Sione Molia produced a huge moment right on half time, breaking through a number of Fijian defenders to close the deficit to 19-12 at the break.
The Fijian defence held strong in the second half and the buffer was just too great, as they pulled away to score the final blow with less than three minutes to go. A penalty kick from Waisea Nacuqu ensured Fiji defended their Olympic title.
Speaking after the match, Curry said they were incredibly disappointed to lose, but very proud of his side’s effort.
“We went into that game with a lot of confidence and belief that we could win the gold, but Fiji played really well. Congratulations to them. They deserved the gold on the day.
“I was really proud of our group. It’s been a long time getting to this point and the overwhelming emotion was just love for our crew.”
Fellow co-captain Tim Mikkelson credited coach Clark Laidlaw for turning the side around following the disappointment at Rio in 2016.
“It’s been a hell of a ride to be honest. Clark came in after that and got us back off the ground. We all moved to Mount Maunganui and centralised and started training together. He gave us a purpose again.”
“We won a Commonwealth Games, World Cup, a World Series and now a silver medal at the Olympics. I just love this group and how far we have come.”
Laidlaw said he’s in awe of the unbelievable amount of work the team have put in over the last five years.
“It’s tough in the immediate aftermath to lose a game, but listening to these two men speak [Curry & Mikkelson] and what I’ve just seen over the last 20 minutes, no medal will ever change that. No gold or silver will change what we just said to each other and what these men do for each other each day.
“I wouldn’t trade the colour of the medal for anything to work with these fellas here.”
New Zealand Men 12 (Scott Curry, Sione Molia tries; Andrew Knewstubb con) Fiji 27 (Meli Derenalagi, Sireli Maqala, Jiuta Wainiqolo, Asaeli Atunasia tries; Napolioni Bolaca 2 con, Waisea Nacuqu pen) HT: 12-19