Aussie men secure best result of the season in Sydney
5 February 2017
RUGBY SEVENS: The Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens team have finished a valiant fourth at the Sydney 7s – their best placing of the current World Series – with the young team showing their potential for the future after recording some remarkable wins over the last two days.
The home side was buoyed by a capacity crowd at Sydney’s iconic Allianz Stadium which hosted 75, 412 fans over the three-day tournament.
Andy Friend said he was delighted with the improved performance of the young Australian Sevens side, which featured nine players with less than three international caps to their name.
“I’m really proud of them, and the first-timers all impressed me,” he said. “They showed some really special touches and it wasn’t through lack of effort that we didn’t get further.”
“Sevens is about being physically fit and mentally fit and they got put in some positions they’ve never been in before. We had bodies behind the scenes that were pretty sore and pretty broken but they got themselves up, and that’s part of being a Sevens player. You’ve got to learn to deal with that and the longer they’re in the program, the better.”
With several senior players expected to return from injury in time for the HSBC Las Vegas 7s on 3-5 March, Friend said he was looking forward to the renewed internal competition for starting berths.
“Just because you’re a contracted player doesn’t mean you get a start. (Senior players) have to fight hard to get those young blokes out now, which makes it really healthy for the squad. Once you’ve got that competition from within, good things happen.”
Quarter-Final: Australia 26 defeated Wales 0
With Sam Myers ruled out with an abdomen injury, James Stannard led the troops onto the field for the all-important quarter-final against Wales. Henry Hutchison opened the scoring with a 40m runaway try (converted by Stannard) while Charlie Taylor was unlucky not to score his own minutes later after he was centimetres away from chasing down his own kick. The home team gave themselves some breathing space when Alex Gibbon charged down the wing to score Australia’s second try, and with the momentum on the side, Hutchison darted through the Welsh defence to score another try in the corner which was neatly converted by Stannard, taking the score to 19-0 on half time.
In the second half, a yellow card to Michael Adams saw the side depleted to six players, however Kennewell and Stannard were able to capitalise on a fortuitous turnover and combine brilliantly over a 60m run that allowed Kennewell to score in the corner (which Stannard converted). The emphatic 26-0 victory booked Australia a place in the semi-finals against HSBC Sevens World Series leaders, South Africa.
Semi-Final: Australia 12 defeated by South Africa 26
In a rematch of last year’s semi-final, South Africa showed their characteristic speed and finesse early on to score under the posts in the opening minute. The Aussie men responded with a gutsy run from Tim Anstee who scored in the corner to a roaring Australian crowd, closing the gap to 5-7. With both teams scrambling to assert their dominance it was eventually Australia who caved on half time, conceding a try on the wing to a flying South African winger Seabelo Senatla, to head into half time behind 5-12.
Despite some valiant defence, nothing in the second half seemed to go right for the Australians with Michael Adams and James Stannard both sent to the sin-bin. With just five men in gold on the field South Africa unleashed, taking advantage of the player deficit to run in two quick tries. However when the balance of players was restored the Aussies again showed their potency in attack, pressuring the South Africans until Simon Kennewell crossed the line to score on full time, with Stannard making the conversion. South Africa’s 12-26 victory secured them a Cup Final berth against England, with Australia to meet New Zealand in the bronze medal match.
Bronze Medal Match: Australia 14 defeated by New Zealand 29
A lack of early possession hurt the Aussie men, as New Zealand raced in two early tries giving them a 12-0 advantage. Australian debutant Lachie Anderson countered, spotting a gap in the Kiwi defence to score the first try of his HSBC World Series career, reducing the gap to 12-7. However the Kiwi attack responded swiftly adding another seven points on the buzzer for a half time score of 17-7.
Returning to the field, the Kiwis stamped their intentions with another quick try. A battle for possession followed but it was eventually Australia who found the tryline, with debutant Brandon Quinn muscling through two defenders for his first HSBC World Series try. It was unfortunately too little too late, and after the Kiwis nabbed another converted try, the Aussie men were forced to accept a valiant 29-14 defeat.
South Africa went on to claim the HSBC Sydney 7s title with an emphatic 29-14 victory over England, their second consecutive HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series triumph. With their fourth place finish in Sydney, the Qantas Australian Men's Sevens team have moved into 6th position overall ahead of the next Series stop in Las Vegas.
World Rugby Sevens Series Standings (after four rounds): 1. South Africa 85pts 2. England 68pts 3. Fiji 64pts 4. New Zealand 56pts 5. Scotland 45pts 6. Australia 40pts 7. Wales 40pts 8. USA 35pts 9. Argentina 35pts 10. France 35pts 11. Kenya 27pts 12. Canada 24pts 13. Samoa 16pts 14. Russia 16pts 15. Japan 8pts 16. Uganda 4pts 17. Papua New Guinea 2pts.
Australian Rugby Union