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By ARU Media Unit
A late try to Clinton Sills has helped the Australian Rugby Sevens beat reigning champions South Africa 26-22 and claim the Plate trophy in Wellington on Saturday.
The result equals the Australian Sevens best result of the 2009/10 IRB Sevens World Series achieved when coach Michael O’Connor’s side also finished fifth at the opening tournament in Dubai.
After three events, the Australians sit fifth on the series standings with 30 points.
Fiji beat Samoa 19-14 in the Wellington Cup Final to claim their first NZI Sevens title since 2006 and close the gap on World Series leaders New Zealand, who had won the first two events.
The Patrick McCutcheon-led Australians were relegated to the Plate semi-final after going down to New Zealand 24-12 in the Cup quarter-finals in their opening match of the day.
Australia bounced back to defeat Kenya 26-17 in the Plate semi-finals to set up a finals showdown with the formidable South African side.
The Plate Final was a hard fought encounter with Sills, Australia’s leading try-scorer, picking a difficult ball off his knees in the dying seconds to race away to seal the result.
The superb match-winning try was also Sills' 15th try of the season which places him equal-fourth on the World Series standings.
Captain McCutcheon praised Sills for his performance.
“That kid’s amazing, he’s got some serious gas and if we can put him in space nice and early he’s going to be hard to compete with in a foot race,” McCutcheon said.
Coach O’Connor was ecstatic with his young team’s performance.
“It was unbelieveable, we came 19-5 down to win, every kick was spot-on for them and every restart," O’Connor said.
“We really had to dig deep and the manner in which we won it was just so exciting in the last minute and everyone contributed.
“It was great to beat South Africa for a second time in a packed stadium, it was just a great atmosphere and great for these young kids.”
James Stannard finished the Wellington Sevens as the fourth-highest points scorer with 41 points.
Australia fly out to Las Vegas on Monday, with Robbie Coleman joining the side as a replacement for the injured Dominic Shippereley (hand).
The Las Vegas Sevens kick off next Saturday 13th February, before the IRB Sevens World Series at the majestic Adelaide Oval from March 19-21.
Australian Rugby Sevens proudly supported by the Australian Institute of Sport
Over 500 young men and women had the opportunity to show off their skills and athleticism yesterday, as the Australian Rugby Union’s Search for a Star took place across the country looking to identify players who may have the potential to represent their country in Rugby Sevens.