Aussie men finish fifth in Dubai

by Marty Cambridge

After a promising Day One in Dubai, the Australian Men’s Sevens side have had to settle for fifth place in the opening leg of the World Series in Dubai which was won by South Africa after they beat Rio Olympic gold medallists Fiji 26-14 in the final.

The young side rallied on Day Two to put in three solid performances despite being without former skipper Ed Jenkins due to injury.

It was a tight first half in their quarter-final, with Wales crossing first until last year’s World Series Rookie of the Year, Henry Hutchison scored to level the scores at 7-7.

Hutchison turned provider for the second five-pointer for the Aussies as Simon Kennewell made sure they went to the break ahead by five points.

However, the Welsh were too strong after halftime and overpowered the Australians in the second half, scoring two unanswered tries to win 21-12 and put the Aussies out of Cup finals contention.  

Sam Myers led from the front in his first outing as Australian captain. Photo: Getty ImagesThe loss put the Australians out of the race for major honours but they were out for Trans-Tasman pride against New Zealand in their second game of the day and thought they had opened the scoring through World Series debutant, Tim Anstee but he lost control over the line.

New Zealand posted first points until the Aussies finally got across the line to trail at halftime by just two points.

The Kiwis were hit with a yellow card when DJ Forbes tackled Henry Hutchison in the air off the kick-off, skipper Sam Myers taking advantage of the extra man to give Australia the lead for the first time in the match.

New Zealand’s all-time leading try scorer, Tim Mikkelson briefly put his side his front, before a piece of individual brilliance straight from the kick-off by Henry Hutchison regained the lead for Australia.

Alex Gibbon sealed the win with a try of his own to ensure the Aussies went through to the fifth-place playoff with a 20-12 win and set-up a clash with Scotland.

It was a tense start to their final game, with both sides feeling each other out in the first minutes until Myers again found his way to the line to give Australia first points.

However, their lead didn’t last long with a slick move from Scotland resulting in James Fleming touching down in the corner, the try converted to give them a two-point lead at the break.

The second half started in the same physical nature as the first with both sides looking for an advantage until Boyd Killingworth provided it for the Aussies crashing over after some sensational lead-up work.

Tim Anstee was the next to get on the scoreboard, sealing the 19-12 win and ensuring the side left Dubai and headed to Cape Town with just the one loss. 

Head coach, Andy Friend was happy with the way his side finished the tournament but also felt they missed an opportunity to get a better result. 

"We were really disappointed this morning and felt like we missed a trick against Wales but as soon as that finished we wanted to finish fifth and beat New Zealand for the first time win a long time," Friend said.

He also reserved special mention to team veteran, Pat McCutcheon who was playing in his last tournament in green and gold.

"He’s been a tremendous ambassador for the game and been wonderful for this program and group of players. It’s nice to send him out on a good note."