Rookies impress Friend ahead of Cup quarter final

by Sam Phillips

Australian Men's Sevens coach Andy Friend is giving his side a pass mark, after they fell 40 seconds short of a clean sweep on the opening day.

The Australians led Fiji 19-14 with 40 seconds to play before two tries to John Stewart at the death stole the game for the Olympic champions.

The loss will have hurt but Friend's side is still through to a Cup quarter final clash with England, fresh off a day where they looked as good as any team in Dubai.

"We'll give ourselves a pass mark there - we are into a quarter, which is pleasing," Friend said.

"I thought there were a lot of things today that will be some lessons for us.Fiji snuck past the Australians late in their pool clash. Photo: Getty Images"How to close out games - I thought we played some really good rugby there against Fiji.

"We had the chance to shut the game out but we didn't and they're a good enough side to do that."

There were two fresh faces among Friend's side and both Ben O'Donnell and Maurice Longbottom impressed.

Longbottom scored a try for the highlight reel but it was his grubber in the final minute against Fiji that gave possession away and eventually, the match.

"I thought they went great," Friend said.

"Benny O'Donnell in the game against Wales had a few early restart takes that gave us possession and gave us control.

James Stannard was one of Australia's best on day one. Photo: Getty Images"That was a real plus and I thought his play around the field in general play was good, too.

"Maurice continues to show what an electric player he is and in that last game he set up some opportunities for us.

"He was very disappointed with himself with the kick at the end there but you have to learn that, you have to learn that possession is everything and if you kick the football you have to get it back.

"He'll be a better player for that but I was really proud of the pair of them."

All attention now turns to a 7:06pm AEDT Cup quarter final against England.

"We got to this stage last year and we lost our quarter final against Wales, which was gut wrenching," Friend said.

"We need to go one better this year and whoever we take on, we're hoping to give them a quality game and come out as victors."

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