Aussie men must build on Sydney

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Australian Men’s Sevens coach Andy Friend urged his team to keep the belief after a runner-up finish at the inaugural Sydney 7s.

Rieko Ioane snatched victory away from the home side, with his third try coming after full-time to clinch a 27-24 Cup final win.

The second-placed finish was Australia’s best in the series and Friend said it was critical to ensure they continued to build towards Rio.

“We’ve got to back this up now,” he said.

“We spoke about that after Wellington – we finished in fifth place and you could look at that and say it’s not a special result but I think for the players and where we’ve been it was the best result for the year,” he said.

“This was three spots better so we’ve got to make sure we stay in that top three or four teams.

Friend said the side would take plenty of confidence from the weekend, in which they beat South Africa and England and came away with one draw and a loss against New Zealand.

New Zealand’s habit of clinching wins after full-time continued but Friend said Australia wasn’t lacking in belief because of it.

“Yesterday we were gutted at 17-all and found out that last try when they scored it there eight players on the football field,” he said.

“So, we’ll take the moral victory on that and today we lost by three points.

“We know...we can beat the best teams but we just need to keep the belief and keep improving.”

Cameron Clark looks on at the end of the Sydney 7s final. Photo: Stu Walmsley

There were plenty of special individual performances over the weekend for Australia as well, with teenager Henry Hutchison scoring two tries in the final and Lewis Holland impressing across the weekend in both attack and defence.

Friend said the focus was they needed to harness the side’s ‘special’ characteristics, a belief he has held since taking the job earlier this year.

“I think the important thing there its ther’s been a great base set,” he said.

“Mick O’Connor, Scotty Bowen, Tim Walsh, they’ve set a really good base, now it’s about game style and the structure.

“We’ve only really talked about it but they’ve performed it so if we can start to train it and get that identity we’ve been looking for there’s something special in this group.”

What a weekend of #Sydney7s action!Thanks to all 73,313 fans who enjoyed the event. We'll see you next year!

Posted by Sydney 7s on Thursday, February 11, 2016

New Zealand captain Tim Mikkelson said his side always feel confident in the attacking territory regardless of what the timeclock says.

“After last week and last night we got a bit of confidence and at the end of the game if we can hold on to the ball and make the position we can put on some points,” he said.

“Aussie really put us under the pump.They’re a young team but they’re growing and it’s looking good for the future.”

Mikkelson was full of praise for Ioane and brother Akira, both of whom have been stars for the Kiwis this season.