It’s been a huge season for the Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens team, starting the season so promisingly, a dip in form mid-season, the centralisation of the Rugby Sevens program in Sydney at the turn of the year, a change of Head Coach before being involved in one of the most memorable Cup Finals in recent memory against New Zealand at Twickenham.
The season started with the glitz and glamour that is the Gold Coast in south-east Queensland. Australia reached the Cup Final of the first tournament of the 2013/14 HSBC Sevens World Series after beating Kenya and South Africa in the knock-out stages. Michael O’Connor’s brave side came unstuck against the powerful New Zealanders, losing 40-19.
Dubai hosted the second leg of the World Series, but Australia were unable to repeat the heroics of the Gold Coast. Defeats to Wales and Scotland in the group stages meant that the Aussies had to settle for a place in the Bowl competition, which they ultimately took out after beating a game Portuguese outfit (17-12). Lewis Holland was the top points scorer for Australia with 29 points.
Australia’s indifferent form continued in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. France and Fiji both accounted for the Aussies to leave the side battling for Bowl honours once again. Wins over Zimbabwe and Wales saw them progress to the Bowl Final before losing out to England (28-19). Electric winger Shannon Walker was top scorer in the tournament, scoring nine tries.
A historic moment for the sport in Australia, with both the Men’s and Women’s Rugby Sevens programs moved to a centralised base at the Sydney Academy of Sport in Narrabeen. The ARU announced a squad of 20 players contracted for 2014, including captain Ed Jenkins, forward Jesse Parahi and Con Foley.
The World Series headed west for the Las Vegas Sevens at the end of the month. Cameron Clark was named in the tournament ‘Dream Team’ as Australia improved on their showings in Dubai and Port Elizabeth, sparking a run of form that would see them solidify their place in the Series top five. After emerging from the ‘Pool of Death’, a narrow defeat to Samoa in the Cup Quarter-Final saw the side drop into the Plate Competition before a heartbreaking loss to England (26-24) in the Plate Final.
Part 2 continues tomorrow.