The Australian Men’s team has finished the first day with two wins and a loss in Pool C which puts them through to the top eight – an outcome coach Andy Friend has worked hard for this season.
The odds looked against them in a pool which contained rivals New Zealand and Scotland – the Wellington bronze medallists.
Whether the large home crowd lifted the young team or the team lifted for the fans is hard to say but emphatic performances were put on the board in the squad’s second and third games.
How it unfolded
The first game against rivals New Zealand began as a close affair with the sides locked on 14-14 at the break.
The second half however is where the youth and inexperience factor kicked in and New Zealand added two more tries off the back of some ball handling errors by the Aussies who failed to add to the half-time total, finishing 26-14.
Henry Hutchison again impressed with his work-rate and intensity around the ball – ably supported by Charlie Taylor.
Stalwart James Stannard, with on-field captain Sam Myers, also led from the front directing traffic around the set plays despite Australia’s intensity dropping off in the second half.
Hutchison expressed the team’s disappointment over the result as “an opportunity lost”.
“It makes it tougher losing that first game. We played ourselves out of that game and only have ourselves to blame,” he said.
When Australia’s second pool game rolled around, the players had obviously had time to think on those missed opportunities.
They were up against Scotland in what was expected to be the feature match of Pool C.
It did not disappoint – from the crowd’s point of view.
Henry Hutchison was immediately in the action and then young Tim Anstee scored the first try.
Getting an obvious taste for the try line, he added two more for a first half treble.
Although Scotland responded through Fleming, Sam Myers ran in a captain’s try on the half-time siren.
Feeling buoyed by such a confident start the procession of tries continued for the home side - another from Myers with singles coming from Mick Adams and debutant Liam McNamara.
Scotland responded again but their fate was sealed as Australia wowed the hometown fans beyond expectation with a 43-14 win.
As the final siren sounded, everyone was up on their feet – including the Australian bench.
The Aussies were pumped at the overall performance but there is no doubt 19 year old rookie Tim Anstee was the man of the moment.
Andy Friend could not have been more impressed with Anstee’s efforts but was not surprised.
“He’s a hell of a footballer and just keeps growing with every game,” he said.
“You wouldn’t now he’s just 19 years of age and only in his fourth tournament.”
Australia’s final match of the day against Papua New Guinea unfolded as perhaps expected with Australia determined to draw a line under its earlier success.
But PNG showed signs of wanting to rain on their hosts’ parade starting strongly with the first try of the game.
Hutchison quickly responded with one of his own and Charlie Taylor added a second try moments later.
One converted try clear at half time, the second half started well with Stannard adding to the scoreboard.
In the final minutes of the second half, Friend gave his youngest players a chance to show their stuff, subbing off Stannard, Hutchison and Myers.
Kennewell scored Australia’s fourth try just before the final siren and Australia took the win over PNG 26-7 ensuring a place in the quarter finals.
Australia coach Andy Friend has said the team spoke after the first game loss about the players’ work-rate off the ball.
“We pride ourselves on being unrelenting and we lost that battle in the first game. In the second game I thought we defended really well and shut them out. - Andy Friend.
Friend Is pleased his team will play Wales instead of Fiji but points out there is no certain outcome in sevens.
“We had a good win against Wales in Wellington, but as we know, every tournament is different and every game is different.
There were other surprises from the group matches on Day One, one of the biggest being Wales’ emphatic victory over Olympic champions Fiji 28-15.
The other, England’s defeat of Series’ leader South Africa ensuring it finished the day undefeated and on top of Pool A.
Day Two set to roll
Finishing second in Pool C means Australia will face Wales in the Cup quarter finals on Sunday.
The other teams which finished top two in their pools and will progress to the Cup quarters are England, South Africa, Wales, Fiji New Zealand, USA and Argentina.
Cup Quarter Finals
ENG v ARG 11.58 am AEDT
NZL v FIJI 12.20pm AEDT
USA v RSA 12.42pm AEDT
WAL v AUS 13.04pm AEDT
HSBC Sevens World Series, Sydney, Day One:
Australia 14-26 New Zealand
Australia 43-14 Scotland
Australia 26-7 PNG
Day Two Match Time: Australia v Wales – 1.04pm AEDT
Matches will be broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports 502 with the first match starting at 10.30am AEDT.