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By ARU Media Unit
Australia beat Fiji and newly-crowned World Series champions New Zealand to reach their first Cup Final of the season on Sunday (Monday AEST) but their stellar run came to a heartbreaking end with a one-point 36-35 loss to South Africa in the Edinburgh Sevens decider.
Coach Michael O’Connor’s side were the surprise package at the final event on the HSBC Sevens Word Series, toppling Fiji 24-14 in the Cup quarter-finals, before registering their first win of the season over New Zealand in the semis, 19-12.
Winning though to the Cup Final saw the young Aussies record their best result of the season, matching last year’s result, and hopes were high they would go one better after holding a 21-7 advantage over the Springbok Sevens at halftime, thanks to a double from skipper Bernard Foley.
When Henry Vanderglas took the Aussies out to a 28-7 lead just after the break, O’Connor’s men appeared to be on their way to a famous win, after losing 19-5 a day earlier to the same side.
But South Africa and hit back with five tries in 10 minutes, including a hat-trick to Steven Hunt, to complete the London-Edinburgh back-to-back double and overtake England to clinch second place behind New Zealand in the 2010/11 World Series.
Skipper Foley, Australia’s top try-scorer for the series with 25 tries, said the one-point loss was devastating.
“We played really well in the first half but we let them back into the game in the second half, and you can’t let a quality side like South Africa get a sniff,” Foley said.
“It’s very disappointing we fell just short of the finishing line.
“We’ve had the talent and we’ve had the team to do it all year, it’s just a real shame we can’t share in that winning feeling together.”
O’Connor said he hoped the majority of his players would return to Sevens next year, and keep the result in Edinburgh in mind.
“Our task was enormous today, we had to come through the hard side of the draw, and to beat Fiji and then achieve our first win of the year of New Zealand, the new World Champions, was a great effort,” O’Connor said.
“If I had to pinpoint a turning point in the final, it was from one critical restart which we messed up.
“We knocked on, the ball bounced back up into their arms and they were in under the posts for an easy seven points, and that was on the back of a soft-try.
“That was the killer, but that’s Sevens, it’s a cruel game. But we were awfully unlucky, unbelievably unlucky.
“I’m hoping this group will put the experience of a one-point loss in the bank, and we can use it next year, there’s been improvement across the eight tournaments, and I’d like to keep a core group of players together, it would be a shame to have to start all over again.”
New Zealand secured the World Series title with 166 points and four tournament wins, South Africa (140) pipped England (127) for second, while Australia collected a series-high 20 points in Edinburgh to finish sixth with 80 points.
Fox Sport will telecast highlights of the finals of the Edinburgh Sevens on 9 June and a replay of the London Sevens will be aired on 2 June.
Cup Final – Australia 35 (Bernard Foley 2, Henry Vanderglas, Jono Lance tries; Foley 4 cons, Hamish Angus 2 cons) lost to South Africa 36
Cup Semi – Australia 19 (Ed Jenkins, Jacob Taylor, Greg Jeloudev tries; Bernard Foley 2 con) beat New Zealand 12
Cup QF – Australia 24 (Ed Jenkins 2, Brian Sefanaia, Jesse Parahi tries; Bernard Foley 2 cons) beat Fiji 14
Australia 5 (Greg Jeloudev try) defeated by South Africa 19
Australia 42 (Lewis Holland, Bernard Foley, Ed Jenkins, Zack Holmes, Dan Yakopo tries; Hamish Angus 3 cons, Foley 3 cons) beat Canada 12
Australia 14 (Jeloudev, Jono Lance tries; Foley, Angus cons)
Edinburgh past winners
2011: South Africa
2008: New Zealand
2007: New Zealand
Australia: Bernard Foley (capt), Ed Jenkins, (vc), Hamish Angus, Lewis Holland, Zack Holmes, Greg Jeloudev, Jono Lance, Jesse Parahi, Brian Sefanaia, Jacob Taylor, Henry Vanderglas, Dan Yakopo.
Australian Rugby Sevens proudly supported by the Australian Institute of Sport