Blitzboks bundle out Aussies, but gap is closing

by Jill Scanlon

The Australian Men’s Sevens team has fallen in the Cup Quarter-Finals on Day Two of the three day World Series USA tournament in Las Vegas, going down to South Africa 14-17. 

The day began with the Aussies needing to complete the round of pool matches which meant facing the daunting prospect of playing Fiji.

When Kunavula put two quick tries on the scoreboard early in the game the signs looked ominous.

But the key to recent success for this young team has been enthusiasm mixed with a determination to keep ‘having a crack’.

While Sydney shone a spotlight on young Tim Anstee, Las Vegas seems to have brought out the best in fellow teen Lachie Anderson.

Anderson continued his blistering form from Friday when he ran in Australia’s first try against the strong Fijian defence.

Sam Myers then quickly led by example as he put one across the line straight from the restart to have just a two-point deficit at the break.

Things did not slow down in the second half on the scoreboard for both teams, as Nasoko then Jenkins, ran in one more try each.

It was an historic moment for the former Aussie captain as that try made him the top all time try scorer for Australia on 108 tries.

A try by Viriviri in the dying moments of the game secured both the 24-17 win for Fiji and top spot in Pool D.

Coach Andy Friend has been quick to praise the efforts of the players but has lamented the number of errors made.

“In the match against Fiji we just made too many errors and gave away the ball on nine occasions,” he said.

James Stannard may be on legs, but he is leading the way for Australia in 2017. Photo: AFP“I thought we were playing good Rugby but you can't make that many errors against such a quality side.”

At the completion of the morning session, there were no major surprises with the top eight contenders who had made the grade.

Australia and Fiji were joined by England, USA, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa and Canada.

The Aussies were faced with the prospect of playing South Africa in the first Cup quarter final and ultimately held their own for the majority of the game against the current World Series leaders. 

"We started really well (against South Africa) and I thought our game plan was right. We just needed to execute it at the death.” - Andy Friend.

“We just didn't have the composure to finish the important moments off,” he said.

Friend emphasised that while they are a young team, they need to continue to work hard at being better at those important moments in a game.

In the other matches Fiji outclassed Canada, while the USA had a major win over Argentina coming back from a 19-0 deficit.

In the last quarter-final, New Zealand had a victory over England which surprised many, keeping the second ranked team scoreless in a 19-0 result.

The Trophy quarter-finals were for the most part competitive with invitational team Chile impressing with its performance over the tournament.

Australia will be looking to secure fifth place as a good preparation for the sixth round in Vancouver next week.

As for the title contenders, it will be interesting to see if home ground and crowd advantage really is tangible when facing the might of the Series leaders.


HSBC Sevens World Series, Las Vegas, Day Two:

Australia 17-24 Fiji

Australia 14-17 South Africa

Day Three Match Time: Australia v Argentina – 8.o0 am AEDT. Matches will be broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports Ch501 from 6.15am AEDT