Sevens sides successful in USA and NZ4 February 2013
RUGBY SEVENS: Australia is enjoying the spoils of the Rugby Sevens World Series in what is an ideal build-up to the sport’s induction to the Rio 2016 Olympic Program.
The Australians finished third in the second round of the Women’s World Series in Houston, USA. It was an improvement on their fourth place finish in the opening round in Dubai and enough to take them to second in the overall standings.
Australia’s men won the Plate Final to claim fifth place in the Men’s Series in Wellington, New Zealand. The men are now ranked tenth in the overall standings after four rounds.
In a sign of how open the Olympic sevens field will be, England won the Houston leg over the USA, who had failed to even reach the quarter finals of the opening round of the Series. The men’s competition was also won by England in a nail-biter over Kenya.
At the half-way point in the Women’s Series, New Zealand has a hold the top spot with 34 points, Australia second (30) and England third (28).
After four of nine men’s rounds, New Zealand (77), Kenya (56) and Samoa (54) hold the top three places in the overall standings with Fiji, France and South Africa tied for fourth (51).
Aussie women finish third in Houston
Hoping for a top two finish, Australian coach Chris Lane took a new-look team to round two of the World Series.
Undefeated throughout the pool rounds, Australia faced Dubai finalists South Africa in the quarter-final. When debutant Ellia Green scored in the dying minutes, the game was forced into overtime and Ili Batibasaga scored the winning try for Australia.
Australia next faced surprise finalists USA for a place in the Cup Final. But inspired by their home fans, skipper Vanesha McGee and star player Nathalie Marchino, the Americans raced out to a lead Australia could not catch and won 17-5.
The third place showdown between Australia and South Africa also went into overtime and it was Green, playing in her first sevens tournament at any level, who scored the match-winner for Australia.
"I was wanting the ball and I was just thinking catch me if you can,” said Green, who was uncovered at an Australian Rugby Union camp.
“It was amazing. I couldn't have done it without the support and encouragement of the whole team. They just gave me encouragement after every game and helped me improve throughout the tournament."
Australia coach Chris Lane was pleased with his team's performance after a tough two days of competition.
"They just showed a lot of ticker. Ellia may have scored the winning try, but that was a whole squad effort, everyone contributed to this over the two days,” he said.
“We didn’t play our best game when it was needed in the semi-final but we came back out and took third which was fantastic.”
Green’s try came after eight minutes of tense overtime amid a field of relatively inexperienced Australian players.
“We came here with an inexperienced enough group of players so to give them the exposure they needed is a real positive for us,” Lane said.
The next hurdle for Australia is to reach a final.
“We are consistently getting into the top four at the major tournaments and we need to try and take that next step. Russia has always been our focus and as we build to that we will be introducing more new players in this Series,” Lane said of the Sevens World Championships in Russia at the end of June.
The IRB Women's Sevens World Series resumes in China on March 30-31.
Aussie men take out Plate Final
The Australian men looked the goods after blitzing through the pool rounds with wins over Portugal, Scotland and an upset win over the dominant Fijians.
Their sole loss of the Wellington Series was a 24-5 quarter final defeat at the hands of the home side.
"We didn't play our best against New Zealand," coach Michael O'Connor said.
"Things just didn't go our way. We were just never in the game. The other five games I'm really happy with."
The Aussies bounced back with a 28-12 win over South Africa in the semi-final courtesy of two Shannon Walker tries and 13 points from Lewis Holland.
Facing Scotland for the second time in two days in the Plate Final, Australia raced out to a 17-0 lead at half-time and wrapped up the match 22-7 to win the Plate.
Australian captain Jesse Parahi said his team had worked very hard and stuck to their game plan to win the Plate final.
"We just wanted to hold onto possession, attack the breakdown and frustrate Scotland,” Parahi said.
"The whole weekend was tough… But we're really stoked. It's the best we've done this year."
The Australians now have a tight turn-around with the next tournament starting next weekend.
Despite adding vital points to their overall tally, the Australians did not move up the table and still sit in tenth place.
The fifth round of the Series will be held in Las Vegas Sevens from 8-10 February.
Australia will face Samoa, United States and Spain in the pool rounds.
Olympics.com.au with IRB