Tournament ends early for Aussie Men after narrow loss

by Jill Scanlon

The Australian Men’s Sevens team started Day Two in Cape Town with attitude and confidence, clinically dispatching Uganda in the opening game of the Challenge Trophy first quarter final 42-12.

With six converted tries, the Australians nailed their passes and fended off tackles as Myers, Hutchison, Anstee and Van der Walt all scored while Alex Gibbon got a double.

In the semi-final, the job at hand for Australia became tougher as opponent, Argentina, refused to lay down when the Aussies started strongly with a try to Gibbon in the first 20 seconds of the game.
Argentina quickly replied through Bautista Delguy and the tone was set.


The Aussie youngsters Taylor, Anstee and Hutchison all played well with fierce tackling in defence initially stifling the Argentinian attack. Gibbon got a second try off a good pass from Taylor and Australia edged in front going to the break 12-7 up.

Argentina scored into the second half through Sabato, then Schulz and the tide seemed to have turned until Gibbon capitalised on a smart Stannard chip kick scoring another try to log a hat-trick for the game and his fifth for the tournament.

Australia was still down just the four points when the final hooter sounded and despite some last ditch desperation, it was all over when a penalty went the way of the victors handing them a 21-17 win.

Australia’s weekend had come to an abrupt end, leaving them to head home with much to contemplate – Cape Town yet again proving to be not a happy hunting ground for the Aussies.
Coach Andy Friend could not hide his disappointment over the weekend’s result.

“It was very disappointing across the whole weekend. We talked yesterday about our start being a bit slow and then today (there were) just too many simple errors in our game against Argentina.

"Again, when we should be showing composure, we’re not. We’re just not working together as a unit which is disappointing,”

Despite the immediate disappointment, Friend acknowledged that he expects this will be how the year ahead plays out with new team combinations mixed with inexperience affecting performance.

“I think we’re just going to have one of those years with players playing in their first tournaments. Sevens is all about getting together a squad and getting them to gel and understand each other and work with each other and this year we’re not going to have a lot of that.”

Expectations of the season have been set at a top eight finish and Friend is determined that is achievable with hard work.

“We said at the start of the year (season) that ideally we want to be in the quarter finals for every tournament – that to me would be acceptable – we missed out on this one, so that’s not acceptable.

“Our lofty fourth position last year was a testament to that group, (but now) we’ve got a brand new group and we’re just going to have to work through it,” Andy Friend.

Despite the upcoming break for the festive season, Friend is not letting the players treat it as such. The next tournament pairing sees the World Series come to Trans-Tasman shores and the significance of the home round in Sydney in early February cannot be underestimated.

“Sydney Sevens is the big one for us – you want to perform well in every tournament, but certainly in front of your family and friends - that adds an extra motivation.

“So the important thing for us now is that we head into this Christmas period and we don’t take it as a break, we take it as an opportunity to work on our fitness, our speed, our strength and our skills; so that when we hit Wellington and Sydney, we hopefully do better than these two tournaments.”

 

What a moment! Fiji lift the ball boy at the #CapeTown7s

A video posted by World Rugby (@worldrugby) on


In other results, it was an exciting final day of action as two of the Cup quarter finals went to extra time with Scotland getting the best of the USA; while the big shock came when England pushed Fiji to extra-time, having trailed at the break 19-0 in their Cup quarter final.

At 26-all, Dan Norton broke away, leaving Fiji defenders in his wake, and crossing for the golden point extra-time try that put England into the semis to meet Scotland. Fiji was left to rue the one that got away and was relegated to battle for the possibility of fifth place honours.

The Blitzbokke continued to fend off all comers as it fiercely looked to defend its 2015 title, not only wanting to go back-to-back this weekend in Cape Town but make it four in a row for the Africa round of the World Series.

The final two matches of the day – the medal matches – proved that the Sevens series is a moving feast. New Zealand faced Scotland in a battle for the Bronze medal, while the stoush for the big prize was to be between South Africa and England who were stepping up one final from Dubai where they won Bronze.

As is always hoped for, these two final matches of the tournament went down to the wire with the Kiwis securing a 24-19 win to take third place - a big step up from a disappointing eighth last week.

It was a similar story in the Cup Final where the South Africans trailed by just seven points in the final minute of the game. With the crowd screaming, Dan Norton was yellow-carded with just 40 seconds left on the clock; with the hooter about to sound the home team scored a try and whether the game was going to end right then depended on the kick for the extra two points which would level the scores.

The ball faded wide and the score remained 19-17 and the Englishmen were jubilant.

There is no doubt that over the first two rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens World Series, South Africa has looked like the team setting the standard for the season ahead, but apparently it is not invincible and England took great pleasure in proving so.

The next two rounds of the Sevens World Series are in Wellington at the end of January, followed by Sydney where the women’s circuit will join with the men in the second of three combined tournaments across the season.

Australia has finished the Cape Town weekend in 12th place with just five competition points to add to the 12 points acquired for finishing fifth in Dubai – dropping from fifth to seventh in the World Series standings.

But it is a long ten-round season and the Aussie team will have to find its place in the international Sevens equation as it proceeds through this new rebuilding phase.

RESULTS

Quarter-finals

South Africa 33 v Wales 0

New Zealand 28 v Kenya 7

Scotland 24 v United States 19

Fiji 26 England 31

Semi-finals

South Africa 14 v New Zealand 7

Scotland 14 v England 33

3rd place play-off

New Zealand 24 v Scotland 19

Final

South Africa 17 v England 19

*Australia finished 13th

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