The Qantas Australian Men's Sevens side has finished fifth at the Hong Kong Sevens to win the Plate Final but more importantly extend its advantage over England to six points with just three rounds of the 2014/15 HSBC World Series to play.
Australia lost its Cup Quarter-Final clash to South Africa (5-7), before winning the Plate competition after beating England (12-7) and then the USA (21-17) in two colossal battles.
Qantas Australian Men's Sevens Head Coach Geraint John said: "I thought defensively we were outstanding both today and over the whole of the weekend. We showed a great attitude against some physically tough sides. Our only defeats came against sides in the top three but when I look back at the weekend I do so with mixed emotions.
"I can't fault the hunger and togetherness of the squad, but I feel we just need to be a bit smarter in those tight moments. We travel to Tokyo tomorrow and the next 48 hours are crucial for us. The games these days are so physical and we need to ensure we recover properly. We'll have our medicals in the morning and then I'll make a call on who will be in the squad for next weekend."
In the Cup Quarter-Final against series leaders South Africa, Geraint John's side dominated the opening exchanges. After a patient period of possession with half-back Allan Fa'alava'au pulling the strings, Jesse Parahi bundled over to give the Australians a deserved 5-0 lead at the break. The Blitzbokke came out firing in the second period, however, and dominated for virtually the entire seven minutes. Despite some astonishing defence from Australia, the highlight being a desperate last-ditch tackle by Con Foley on Kwagga Smith, Werner Kok crossed over in the final 90 seconds. Branko Du Preez's conversion was successful to give the South Africans a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
After the defeat to South Africa, Australia dropped to the Plate competition where they first played England in the Semi-Final. In a bruising battle with no quarter given, a double from inspirational captain Ed Jenkins helped the green and gold to a crucial victory. Tom Mitchell replied after the full-time siren but it was not enough as Australia extended its overall Sevens World Series standings advantage over the English in the race for automatic Olympic qualification.
Australia saw off the challenge of the United States in a topsy-turvy Plate Final. Allan Fa'alava'au's quick tap from a penalty opened the scoring in the first minute, but it was the Americans who led at the break after scores from Andrew Durutolo and an intercept try from the lightning Perry Baker. Shannon Walker shrugged off the challenge of Baker to score with his first touch after coming on as a replacement before Cameron Clark spotted the tiniest of gaps to put the Aussies ahead. A late try from Madison Hughes made it a nervy final minute but Australia held on to take 13 World Series points away from Hong Kong.
Australian Sevens skipper Ed Jenkins was rewarded for his fine displays over the weekend by being named in the Dream Team for the Hong Kong Sevens.
Elsewhere, Fiji thrilled the 40,000 fans at the Hong Kong Stadium as they beat New Zealand in the Cup Final (33-19) while South Africa finished third after seeing off Samoa (26-5).
After six rounds of the 2014/15 HSBC Sevens World Series, Australia sit fourth with 84 points, six points ahead of fifth-placed England. South Africa still lead the series with 110 points, two clear of Fiji. New Zealand are a further point behind.
Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens results in Hong Kong, 27-29 March:
Australia 33-5 Portugal, Pool B
Australia 21-5 Scotland, Pool B
Australia 5-14 New Zealand, Pool B
Australia 5-7 South Africa, Cup Quarter-Final
Australia 12-7 England, Plate Semi-Final
Australia 21-17 USA, Plate Final
Final placings for the Hong Kong Sevens (Top 6): 1. Fiji (22 World Series points), 2. New Zealand (19 points), 3. South Africa (17 points), 4. Samoa (15 points), 5. Australia (13 points), 6. USA (12 points)
Current standings in the 2014/15 HSBC Sevens World Series after six rounds (Top 6): 1. South Africa (110 World Series points), 2. Fiji (108 points), 3. New Zealand (107 points), 4. Australia (84 points), 5. England (78 points) 6. Argentina (64 points)