Aussies finish sixth in London and overall

by Jill Scanlon

Australia has been defeated by South Africa 17-28 in the fifth-place playoff at the London Sevens tournament where Scotland successfully defended its 2016 title.

The Cup final was a battle of the Kingdom dwellers and while the crowd were screaming for an English win, there is no doubt the Scots had won many supporters with their push to the finish line. 

The match for fifth-place honours saw tries exchanged through the first half as Siviwe Soyizwape and Cecil Afrika scored for the Blitzboks while John Porch and Simon Kennewell kept Australia in close touch.

South Africa lead by just two points at the break, 14-12.

Afrika took advantage of the smallest gap in defence and headed for the line early in the second half.

An Alex Gibbon try in the final minutes made it a battle to the end as the Aussies applied pressure with time running out.

But when Rosko Specman collected the bouncing ball off a kick pass on the run, and ran it to the try line, the game was all but done.


The sixth-place finish in the final tournament of the series sees Australia holding its position also in sixth place in the overall Series Standings on 113 points.

While it was not the result the Aussies were hoping for coming into this final tournament, the form showed was a vast improvement on Paris.

The positives for coach Andy Friend ahead of a very busy 2018 are that the young squad has now been immersed in valuable match experience at the elite level and been impressive in its development.

“I thought the boys did really well to bounce back and put 40 points on New Zealand, who have been a really tough team for us to beat,” he said.

"A disappointing day with positive signs but we finished sixth at the tournament and sixth for the season so it's probably a fitting result.

"Looking back on the year, when we were good, we were very good and when we were bad, we were rotten. That's part of having a young squad, (and) in time we'll be able to turn them into a championship winning side.”

However, the standout player in London was in fact the veteran of the team 33-year-old James Stannard who scored with tries as well as with the boot.

There's been a lot of talk about the young players but you need the older heads too, like James Stannard who led us so well over the past two weeks,” said Friend.

Other Results

Scotland again forged its way to another Cup Final at Twickenham.

On the way, it took out New Zealand and the USA leaving the winning tries in each match until the last, as has become its trademark finish.

Seeing Fiji fight for the Challenge Trophy at the end of a season took many by surprise, not the least the Pacific men themselves.

Defeating Wales 26-14, Fiji took the Trophy to mark a ninth place finish in London and third place in the overall Series standings.

Japan sadly, was farewelled with a 15th place finish for the series and therefore relegation from the core group.

Spain will take that spot next season.

FINALS

Cup Final

Scotland 12 - England 7

Scotland secured back-to-back London titles in an epic decider at Twickenham.

Dan Norton brought the crowd to its feet as he ran in the first try of the final over the line -the word mesmeric was even used in commentary, such was its spectacular nature.

But the game is rarely won in those first minutes – certainly not when Scotland is involved.

England led at the break 7-0 in a tight contest, but with second-half tries from Hugh Blake and Scott Riddell, Scotland realised the dream of defending its 2016 title.

The ‘never say die’ motto should be engraved on their gold medals as it has become what this team is known for, snatching victories in unlikely scenarios.

 

Mark Robertson was named Player of the Final in what was his last game ahead of retirement and he told the crowd, “It is tough to say goodbye”.

Bronze medal

Canada 22 - USA 19

Canada drew on the memories of Singapore to blaze a trail to the Bronze medal final in London.

Putting in a massive second half against the USA saw them secure the prize scoring three tries and negating a nine point half-time deficit.

Trophy final 

Fiji 26 - Wales 14

All Done!

And that’s it for another World Series and another year in Men’s Rugby Sevens with South Africa winning the series well ahead of England in second place and Fiji in third.

For Australia, Andy Friend is keen to see the sport of Sevens grow – at all levels - and will be working on that in the off-season.

"We have six tournaments that we're looking at in between now at the next World Series. The most important thing for me is to get more players playing whether it's club competitions or through the nationals or what have you,” he said.

"When I get back, I'll continue to have discussions on how we can support that, not just at a senior level but at a junior level too, to really open up opportunities for everyone to be playing the game of Sevens.”

Most players will now go away for a short, well-earned rest before beginning those tournaments and pre-season training in preparation for doing it all again beginning in December.

The 2017-2018 series however has yet to be scheduled and with two major events in 2018 - the Commonwealth Games in April, in which many of the core teams will participate, and the Sevens World Cup in July - one would imagine it will not take the usual format.

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