The Australian Men’s Sevens team has finished the Wellington tournament in 10th, adding seven points to its World Series tally.
Despite again placing outside the top eight, the new young members of the team impressed in all six matches showing signs of a bright future, as this squad embarks on a substantial rebuilding phase.
The Aussies started day two with confidence after a win over Japan in their final outing on Saturday.
While Samoa provided a tough contest in the challenge quarter final, an opening try from Henry Hutchison and a double from Charlie Taylor ultimately turned a two-point half-time deficit into a three-point victor,y 17-14.
The highlight of the game which underlined the commitment of the youngsters in the Australian squad came when 19-year-old Tim Anstee chased down what was to be a certain Samoan try, tackling the player into touch, right at the corner flag.
It was hailed as the turning point in a close contest reinforcing the control Australia had to finish the game.
Australia next faced Wales in the Trophy semi-final and got off to a flying start with big Sam Myers running in the first try.
Eighteen-year-old Tate McDermott, who had earned a spot in the starting line-up, scored the second and assisted in the next with a pass to Taylor who ran in his third for the weekend and Australia's third for the game.
Possession had been the name of the game as Australia kept Wales scoreless to half-time and McDermott scored again – his third for the weekend – as the second half began.
Wales finally hit back with two in succession but it was not enough to reel in the Aussies, who took the match 24-10.
Unfortunately that win came at a cost with Myers and Gibbons exiting during play with injuries.
The Challenge Trophy Final loomed as a tough prospect as Australia went into the game with just three players on the bench and Kenya scored the first two tries through SammyOliech and Collins Injera.
Hutchison regained some ground with a try – his fourth of the weekend – to have the Aussies just seven points adrift at the break, and an early try to Kenya in the second half was again replied to by debutant Dylan Pietsch, his first career try for Australia.
Mick Adams then went over in the corner in the dying seconds leaving a two-point deficit on the scoreboard. The conversion kick from acting captain James Stannard out wide was a good one, given the windy conditions, but just missed to the right giving Kenya the 19-17 win.
They've been ravaged by injury and have a young and inexperienced squad, and then to make matters tougher the @aussie7s men were drawn in the 'Pool of Death' for the #wellington7s. They might not have progressed from their group y'day, and they were narrowly defeated in today's #challengetrophy final, however they won plenty of admirers with their commitment to one another and their never-say-die attitude, and the signs for the future are good; we're so proud of them all. Now, on to the #Sydney7s on home turf next weekend. . . . . . . #RugbySevens #Rugby7s #WorldRugby7s #Rugby #RugbyPics #WorldRugby #RugbyLove #RugbyLife #RugbyPlayers #RugbyTeam #Rugby #RugbyGram
While coach Andy Friend admitted a 10th-place finish was not what they wanted, he was pleased overall and looking to Sydney with his young charges.
“I was really impressed with the performance of the young guys and the whole team actually, they had two really tough games yesterday against South Africa and Fiji, rallied well in the last game against Japan," he said.
"Today they came out and played some really good football against Samoa, a tough team as are Wales, and then went very very close against Kenya. So a good performance overall.".
Hutchison also proved again he is a key member of the Aussie Sevens team moving forward with another valuable performance.
With more injuries to add to what has become a long list, Friend was still confident he could field a good squad next week in Sydney.
“The injuries are always disappointing - Boyd Killingworth is out and we’ll wait to see about Sam Myers and Alex Gibbons,” he said.
“At the end of the day we’ll have 12 fit players who will be very chuffed to be playing on home soil in front of their families and friends and I’m sure they’re going to give a great account of themselves.”
In what would, to some, seem to be a predictable outcome, Fiji and South Africa played off for the tournament title and it was the Blitzboks who ruled the contest.
While it was a hard fought clach, South Africa seemed to have all the answers in the end taking the victory 26-5 and winning their first Wellington title since 2002.
Earlier, Scotland took the bronze medal match over Canada 28-22 with a final siren try and conversion underlining its strong start to the series.
HSBC Men's Sevens World Series, Wellington, Day Two Champions Trophy
Quarter-final: Australia 17-14 Samoa
Semi-final: Australia 24-10 Wales
Trophy Final: Australia 17-19 Kenya
HSBC Men's Sevens World Series, Wellington, Day Two Cup
Quarter-Finals: Scotland 14-12 England, Fiji 26-10 New Zealand 10, Canada 17-12 Argentina 12, South Africa 45-0 France
Semi-finals: Fiji 19-12 Scotland, South Africa 21-5 Canada
3rd place play-off: Scotland 28-22 Canada
Final: South Africa 26 Fiji 5
South Africa Winners
HSBC Men's Sevens World Series, Sydney, Pools
Pool A: South Africa, England, Kenya, Japan
Pool B: Fiji, Wales, France, Samoa
Pool C: Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, PNG
Pool D: Canada, Argentina, USA, Russia