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By ARU Media Unit
Australia came close to forcing the Hong Kong Sevens Plate final into extra time but a penalty in the dying seconds has seen South Africa come out on top with a hard-fought 26-19 victory.
Electing to take a quick tap just 10 metres out, captain Bernard Foley’s Aussie team needed a converted try to level the scores from the last play of the match.
But the South African defence proved too strong and after Jono Lance was isolated in midfield, Australia were penalised painstakingly close to the chalk - handing the Springbok Sevens the silverware at a sold-out Hong Kong Stadium.
The victory for South Africa reverses last year’s result in Hong Kong, where Australia won the Plate final 12-5.
New Zealand took out the iconic event for the first time since 2008 and seized the HSBC Sevens World Series lead with a 29-17 victory over England in the Cup final.
Warringah Rats playmaker Hamish Angus scored two tries and kicked two conversions in the Plate final and skipper Foley also dived over for a five-pointer to take his tally to four for the tournament.
Coach Michael O’Connor said his players would bounce back in time for their home tournament, the International Rugby Sevens Adelaide, next weekend but they would be without the services of Henry Vanderglas who has sustained a rib injury.
“To win in Hong Kong I believe you need to have experience and in the end that’s what let us down, we’re a young group,” O’Connor said of his 12-man squad, nine of which were playing for the first time in Hong Kong.
“On the whole there were more positives than negatives, we made it through to the Plate final and we survived a tough pool.
“We came close against Samoa in the quarters and that was pleasing - but the game was there to be won and our inexperience showed.
“Same with the final, our inexperience let us down, but we definitely showed improvement over the three days and that’s what you’re looking for as a coach.
“We finished sixth, and I think that’s a pretty accurate reflection of where we’re at.
“The boys are looking very forward to our home event next weekend and having the support of the crowd.”
Earlier, defending Hong Kong and World Series champions Samoa ended Australia’s race for the title with a 15-12 victory in the Cup quarterfinals.
Australia then bounced back in the Plate semi-finals to score five tries to run out 35-12 victors over Russia.
After five events, New Zealand (110) lead England (105) on the Series standings, ahead of Samoa and Fiji (84). Fifth-placed South Africa (72) have lengthened their lead over Australia to 26 points.
Tickets are still available for next weekend’s International Rugby Sevens Adelaide and start from just $55 for a two-day pass. Visit Ticketek www.ticketek.com.au.
Australia 19 (Hamish Angus 2, Bernard Foley tries, Angus 2 cons) defeated by South Africa 26
Australia 35 (Jono Lance, Shaun Foley, Jacob Taylor, Greg Jeloudev, Zack Holmes tries, Angus 5 cons) bt Russia 12
Australia 12 (Ed Jenkins, Lance tries, Angus con) defeated by Samoa 15
Australia 21 (Hamish Angus, John Grant, Bernard Foley tries, Angus 3 cons) bt Argentina 14
Australia 26 (Henry Vanderglas, John Grant, Ed Jenkins, Lewis Holland tries, Angus 3 cons) bt Canada 24
Australia 42 (Bernard Foley 2, Ed Jenkins, John Grant, Lewis Holland Zack Holmes tries; Hamish Angus 6 cons) bt Zimbabwe 0
Australia: Bernard Foley (capt), Ed Jenkins, (vc), Hamish Angus, Shaun Foley, John Grant, Lewis Holland, Zack Holmes, Greg Jeloudev, Tevita Kuridrani, Jonothan Lance, Jacob Taylor, Henry Vanderglas
Players from the Qantas Australian Women's Sevens program visited the Sydney Children's Hospital in Randwick on Thursday to bring some needed festive cheer to sick children.