Aussie Sevens notch an opening day clean sweep in Mackay

by Sam Phillips

The first of two days jam packed with Sevens action is in the books, with the Aussie Sevens squad a perfect four from four.

About 1000 fans were on hand to watch the four game series at BB Print Stadium in Mackay, in which coach Andy Friend is putting his squad through their paces ahead of a huge 2017/18 season.

The two performances tonight were far more clinical - in both attack and defence - and Friend put that down to some raw, nervous energy.

"We've got some new boys in there - a lot of freshies - and we made some pretty simple errors in our defensive systems," Friend told RUGBY.com.au.

"We managed to sneak some wins but tonight we were far more clinical in our performances.Simon Kennewell was among Australia's best today. Photo: Ben Dolphin"We had young bodies that were getting overexcited, tracking in too hard and working too hard.

"In games three and four we stuck to our systems, allowed the tackler, the man doing the tackling to do the job and the other blokes didn't have to work that hard.

"We got our shape back and the results came from that."

While the performances were of good quality, there is bad news on the injury front, with Liam McNamara having suffered a suspected torn ACL.

He will go for scans tomorrow but it shapes as a big blow on both the personal front and team front, with McNamara one of the stars of the Sevens and Australian U20s program in 2017.

Here's how the day panned out.

7:45pm - Australia 26 Japan 5

Alec Fontalvo crossed for the Aussies against Japan. Photo: Ben DolphinIt was Australia Green's turn to take on Japan next and they came out firing, Dylan Riley scoring from a perfect Maurice Longbottom cross field kick in the opening minute.

The Australians crossed again in the following minute before Naoki Motomura left the Aussies flat footed with a brilliant burst of speed, putting the Japanese back in the game and leaving the score at 12-5 at the break.

Some individual brilliance from John Porch set up Longbottom for a try halfway through the second term, the former chipping and chasing from a penalty on halfway, deflecting the loose ball in the latter's direction five out to score.

Ben O'Donnell scored the sealer with a minute to play, throwing a well timed dummy to slice through the line and run the final 40 metres to score.

7:20pm - Australia 43 Japan 5

Australia had all the ball in the opening exchanges of the first term and eventually turned pressure into points, Matthew McTaggart trotting over for his second of the afternoon.

Japan applied some pressure of their own soon in the minutes after but a loose pass was picked up by Matthew Hood, who ran 60 metres untouched to score.

Joe Pincus followed Hood's effort with a try of his own in the final minute of the first term before Dylan Riley crossed, opening up a dominant 26-0 lead at the break.

The Japanese looked dangerous when they had ball in hand and a well worked overlap put Moriki Read over for their first of the night.

But outside of that it was a procession of tries for the Australians, who looked sharper than they did in their first start against Japan here.

4:50pm - Australia 66 Regional Queensland Invitational 5

The Australian Men's Sevens side are off to a flyer in Mackay. Photo: Ben DolphinWhere the first clash between Australia and Japan was an entertaining affair, this was little more than a practice run for the Australians.

They scored five tries in as many minutes in the first half, one each to Tom Merritt, Ben O'Donnell, John Porch and two to Simon Kennewell, to open up a 33-0 lead.

The invitational side gave their best but they were simply falling off first up tackles and getting left flat footed all with every wave of Australian attack.

Kennewell had a hat trick in the opening minute of the second term, showing pace down the right hand sideline to score.

Simon Kennewell has been at his brutal best this afternoon. Photo: Ben DolphinThe regional side finally got on the board before Nicky Price scored arguably the most impressive try of the afternoon, showing supreme pace to run 70 metres and leave defenders in his wake, seemingly without getting out of second gear.

Alec Fontalvo showed will to score a try of his own soon after, leaving the score at 52-5 with two minutes to play.

Porch crossed for his second just before the final siren sounded, Merritt crossing one final time to bring the final score to 66-5.

4:20pm - Australia 33 Japan 17

Australia and Japan exchange pleasantries before their first clash. Photo: Ben DolphinThe first of the six preseason friendlies between these two nations was an end to end contest at blistering pace.

Lachie Anderson crossed twice in the first two minutes, leaving the crowd at BB Print Stadium fearful of an uncompetitive affair.

But the Japanese hit back with two tries of their own through Dai Ozawa.

That took the score to 12-all at the break and the Australians had to work far harder for their next five pointer, some patient play working the ball upfield before Matthew McTaggart was able to show a clean pair of heels to slice over.

Ozawa then scored his third of the afternoon and just as the Japanese looked to cross again for the potential match winner, Simon Kennewell picked off an intercept on his own line and ran the length of the field to open up a 24-17 lead with one minute to play.

The Japanese again threatened to break the Australian line, in large part to Yoshihiro Noguchi but after turning the ball over, Len Ikatau showed power and pace to set up a try for David Yabsley, which would be the final scoring act of the match.

4pm - Australia vs Japan

We are about to get underway here at BB Print Stadium in Mackay.

Here's the players Friend has picked for the six clashes with the Japanese.

SQUAD

Australia Gold

1. David Yabsley

2. Lachlan Anderson

3. Joe Pincus

5. James Stannard

10. Matthew McTaggart

11. Len Ikatau

7. Matthew Hood

9. Dylan Riley

6. Jeral Skelton

Australia Green

5. Tim Anstee

8. Ben O'Donnell

2. Simon Kennewell

9. Maurice Longbottom

1. Liam McNamara

6. John Porch

7. Tom Merritt

12. Nicky Price

4. Alec Fontalvo