Australian Sevens coach Tim Walsh admitted the pressure of winning their hometown tournament ‘got to’ his Olympic champion side, after a Cup semi-final loss to Canada.
The Aussies came into the tournament as the faces of the 2017 Sydney Sevens, after a dream run in the past year, that culminated in an Olympic gold medal, but will finish fighting New Zealand for third place after an afternoon of upsets.
USA were New Zealand's foes making Sydney's an all-North American final and just the second Cup final since the inception of the World Women's Sevens Series not to feature either Oceania heavyweight, with the 2013 USA Sevens' decider between England and the USA the other
Nerves never really seemed to leave them in their inaugural home tournament, though, and Canada proved to be too steely to overcome, taking a 12-7 win in that clash.
Walsh said uncharacteristic errors were symptomatic of the extra weight on Australia’s shoulders during the matchup, but it was something they’d need to become used to.
“I think it's that cross between getting really excited and…deflecting all those distractions and it probably got to us a little bit,” he said.
“Those young girls, very recognisable elite athletes but the reality is that's what they're going to have to do keep at the top is to perform under incredible pressure and I guess you don't get much more than Rio but playing at home which they rarely get to do is also a hell of a lot of fun but shattering.”
Despite having won nearly everything on offer in 2016, their success had come early, with an average age of just 23 in Sydney and just two (Shannon Parry and Sharni Williams) over 24.
Walsh said it was easy to forget the tender age of his team, after such a run of history-making moments.
“The young girls are (players like) Charlotte Caslick, they're barely 21. The expectations on her going into this tournament is ridiculous," - Tim Walsh
“That's just something that she's going to have to take on her shoulders, as will all the gold medallists.
“There were parts of play which were up to our form and other parts that we need to be more consistent to be consistently at the top and to win championships.”
Walsh’s devastation turned into pragmatism by the end of his post-match press conference, with the Sydney loss put squarely in perspective.
“They see the girls running around with gold medals and playing some incredible rugby and they are going to make mistakes and that's life,” he said.
“You're not just going to win everything all the time, we'd like to but we've got to maintain our consistency and stay at the top.
“We've got another game to go and we've got another round in Las Vegas in another month so it's not the end of the world, it's a game that we've lost and that's going to happen and we need to build on that and make sure that we're continuing forward and maintaining our position at the top.”
Co-captain Parry said pressure wouldn’t be an out for her side, after a disappointing finish.
“It's definitely there, playing on home soil you want to put out a good performance but that's no excuse for that result out there,” she said.
“We gave them too much ball in key positions but we still had our opportunities in the last two minutes, we just couldn't execute.”
Australia takes on New Zealand in the bronze medal clash at 5:15pm AEDT.