A late try to Samoa in a gripping quarter-final on Saturday night has snatched away Australia’s place in the last four of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Las Vegas.
After an impressive 26-7 victory over Scotland earlier in the day, Australia faced up to Samoa in the quarter-finals and seemed to have the game won leading 10-5 with just seconds remaining. But a late try to Lio Lolo saw Samoa sneak home 12-10.
Australia will now face Argentina in the semi-final of the plate on Sunday.
In Australia’s first game on day two of the tournament they met Scotland, who have been something of a bogey team in recent tournaments.
The Scots applied the pressure early before Jesse Parahi led a breakaway that resulted in a long range try to Allan Fa’alava’au, who is having an impressive tournament.
Fa’alava’au then set up a try for another player enjoying a good tournament, Cameron Clark, yesterday’s hero against Fiji. Another try to Tom Lucas and two conversions to Clark gave Australia a 19-0 lead at half time.
Clark continued his try scoring run with his second of the match, third of the tournament, with another in the second half as this time there was no way back for the bonny Scots – Australia running out 26-7 winners.
Australia’s fate then hung on the result of the final Pool B match between New Zealand and Fiji and with the All Blacks squeaking home 12-7 Australia were through to the Cup quarter finals to face Pool C winners, the highly-rated Samoa.
The quarter-final against the undefeated Samoans started tightly with desperate defence from both teams shutting down promising opportunities.
But it was Australia who got on the board first with Clark going in for yet another try, his fourth of the weekend, wide out on the right after five minutes to finish off a good team move.
Clark missed the conversion but shortly afterwards he made another strong run to set up Australia’s second try to Peter Schuster. The conversion again sailed wide but Australia led 10-0 at half time.
Australia’s tenacious defence was eventually breached early in the second half with Sani Niue going over for an unconverted try for Samoa to bring it back to 10-5.
It looked like Mick O’Connor’s team had a chance to close it out with ninety seconds to go and the ball deep in Samoa’s territory. But a crucial penalty awarded by referee Marius van der Westhuizen gave Samoa one last chance and they pounced with just seconds left to score the converted try to Lolo.
After the loss a disappointed O’Connor struggled to make sense of the result.
“I thought we did (play well)”, he started. “Just our inability to convert any of our tries hurt us and our re-start defence. They got some position from re-starts which we weren’t able to do and in the end that was probably the difference in the game.”
One bright spot was the form of Fa’alava’au, which O’Connor said was pleasing.
“He’s a beauty”, said the coach about the 20-year-old Fa’alava’au. “He’s been injured for quite awhile and it’s good to have him back.”
O’Connor finished by setting out the teams goals for tomorrow.
“We’ve got to win both of our games tomorrow (Sunday)”, he said. “We need the points. We’re quite precariously positioned at the moment in fifth (on the Sevens World Series points table) so we need to build some points tomorrow.”
Australian speedster Shannon Walker put on a brave face after the match.
“It was definitely disappointing to lose that game”, he said. “The boys had it in the bag there at one stage and just the bounce of the ball I suppose."
“After we lost to New Zealand (on Saturday) we did bounce back and put ourselves in a good position but it was unlucky to get that last try (against Samoa).
“Now we just have to recover and try and come back and win these next games (tomorrow) just one at a time."
Australia’s next match will be against Argentina in the Plate semi-final at 10.48am Sunday local time (5.48am Monday AEDT).
You can watch the games live on Fox Sports and all matches are also streamed live at www.irbsevens.com
HSBC Sevens World Series – Las Vegas
Day 2 Results
Australia 26 (Cameron Clark 2, Allan Fa’alava’au, Tom Lucas tries; Clark 3 conversions) defeated Scotland 7 (James Johnstone try; Colin Gregor conversion) at Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas. (Half time: Australia 19 – Scotland 0) (Referee: Nick Briant [NZL])
Australia 10 (Cameron Clark, Peter Schuster tries) lost to Samoa 12 (Lio Lolo, Sani Niue tries; Reupena Levasa conversion) at Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas. (Half time: Australia 10 – Samoa 0) (Referee: Maruis van der Westhuizen [SA])