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A drop goal with literally the last kick of the match saw Australia clinch a stunning 22-21 comeback victory over Fiji and keep their hopes alive on the first day of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Las Vegas.
After being heavily defeated by reigning world champions New Zealand 31-7 in their opening match Australia had to defeat Fiji to stay in contention and early in the match they trailed 14-0.
It looked like their hopes were gone when they were down 21-19 in the final seconds but Australia won a penalty on Fiji’s 22 and Clark stepped up to coolly slot the drop goal from to the right of the posts.
The winning kick capped a superb day for Clark who earlier had put Australia up after just a minute against New Zealand when he split the defence outwide on the half way line and raced away 50 metres for the opening try. He then converted brilliantly from the touchline to put Australia up 7-0.
But from there on it was all black for Australia. Despite strong performances from Jesse Parahi and Shannon Walker, Mick O’Connor’s team couldn’t add to their tally as New Zealand piled on five unanswered tries to run out 31-7 winners.
This meant in their second game Australia had to defeat another Sevens heavyweight, Fiji, to have any chance of advancing to the Cup quarter finals tomorrow.
The match began badly for Australia with Fiji racing away to score an opening try in the first minute to Osea Kolinisau. It got even worse a minute later when Kolinisau scored his second as Fiji raced to a 14-0 lead.
A yellow card to Semi Kunatani gave Australia a chance and Walker dove over under the posts with Clark adding the conversion.
Nick Malouf then brought Australia right back into with another try right on the half time siren to make it 14-12, Clark this time unable to add the conversion from wide out.
Walker looked to be away to put Australia in front early in the second half but he was just dragged down by desperate defence. Fiji were then awarded a penalty and a piece of individual brilliance saw Jona Tuitoga race away to score what looked like the clinching try with Australia behind 21-12.
But a try to Peter Schuster after superb lead up work by Allan Fa’alava’au saw Australia come back to 21-19, with seconds to play, after another brilliant conversion by Clark.
Then Clark’s final drop kick won it for Australia on the full time siren.
Speaking after the match Clark said nerves weren’t the problem as he was called over to make the kick.
“To be honest when I was lining up that final kick I was thinking about the goal against South Africa at the Gold Coast (earlier in the season, also to win the match) which I missed badly”, he explained. “So it was head down and hopefully it would go the right way – and it did, so happy to get away with the win.”
“You practice for those sort of moments as a goal kicker so I wasn’t so nervous going into it but really happy to get through with at least one win today going in to tomorrow.”
“We started really well against New Zealand and didn’t quite get there, they ran away with in the end. But to beat Fiji, one of the top side’s this year, they’ve won a Cup this year, we’re happy to get through with a win and we’ve got the Scots tomorrow to look forward to.”
Coach Mick O’Connor said he was “relieved” after the thrilling final match.
“It was a great kick from Cameron under pressure at the end there” he said, “ but I thought we stayed composed in the heat of the battle. It was a ferocious affair and I thought we really stayed composed and looking back on it we deserved to win.”
“I think the team showed a lot of character. We lose that game and we’re certainly in the Bowl (the consolation play-offs) tomorrow, and that’s tough after the first two tournaments we’ve had this year.”
“So we’ve given ourselves a fighting chance now and we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow between Fiji and New Zealand but if we beat Scotland we’re a good chance of going through (to the quarter finals).”
Australia’s next game is against Scotland at 12.22 Saturday Las Vegas time (7.22am Sunday AEDT). You can watch the games live on Fox Sports and all matches are also streamed live at http://www.irbsevens.com/index.html
HSBC Sevens World Series – Las Vegas
Day 1 Results
Australia 7 (Cameron Clark try, conversion) lost to New Zealand 31 (Scott Curry 2, Sam Dickson 2, David Raikuna tries; Gillies Kaka 3 conversions) at Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas. (Half time: Australia 7 – New Zealand 12) (Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen [SA])
Australia 22 (Nick Malouf, Peter Schuster, Shannon Walker tries; Cameron Clark 2 conversions, penalty) defeated Fiji 21 (Osea Kolinisau 2, Jona Tuitoga tries; Kolinisau 2, Emosi Mulevoro conversions) at Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas. (Half time: Australia 12 – Fiji 14) (Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge [SA])
Photos and photo credits are as follows:
Cameron Clark goes into score against NZ (Photo credit: Dobson Images courtesy RUGBYmag.com)
Australia rejoice after beating Fiji (Photo credit: Ian Muir courtesy RUGBYMag)
Cameron Clark lands the winning goal against Fiji (Photo credit: Ian Muir courtesy RUGBYMag)