'Championship minutes' costly for Aussies: Friend

by Sam Phillips

Winning the "championship moments" is imperative for the Australian Men's Sevens side, as they strive to improve on a fifth placed finish in Dubai in Cape Town, this weekend.

Australia were 40 seconds away from beating Fiji in their final pool match and were beaten by England, in a Cup quarter final, after the siren.

The loss to England meant they could finish no higher than fifth - the same place they finished this time last year - and then left coach Andy Friend frustrated.

"I suppose if you look at the positive side we did finish with two wins but the disappointing side is that we came here wanting to be in the semi finals and we didn't achieve that," he said.

"We were a minute away - seconds away - from being in (semi) finals.

"But we have to learn how to play those championship minutes and take the opportunities when we're there.

"We had opportunities to close out the game yesterday (against Fiji) and we had the chance to win the game there today (against England) and we didn't take them.

"That's where we have to be better and that will be our target next weekend."

The Australians had a disastrous Cape Town tournament 12 months ago - finishing 11th - and Friend said the team must back up some quality showings in Dubai this weekend.

"We achieved fifth place here last year and then what we did last year was go to Cape Town and we were very poor," he said.

"We have to go to Cape Town and hopefully make the semi finals there."Maurice Longbottom had some superb moments in his first World Series tournament. Photo: Getty ImagesThree players that will only aid their chances moving forward are Ben O'Donnell, Maurice Longbottom and Matthew Hood, who all made their World Series debuts at the weekend.

That trio, along with Lachie Anderson and Simon Kennewell, impressed Friend in Dubai.

"I thought Ando and Simon were both two of our better players," he said.

"I thought they were fantastic, actually.

"That was a real pleasing part of the tournament and the other pleasing part was Benny O'Donnell, getting a lot of minutes under his belt.

"We had three debutants in the end with Ben O'Donnell, Maurice Longbottom and then Matty Hood, so that was great."

Australia kick off their Cape Town Sevens campaign on Saturday against Spain at 10:43pm AEDT, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS.


Australian Men's Sevens fixtures

Saturday December 9

Australia v Spain, 10:43pm AEDT

Sunday December 10

Australia v USA, 2:04am AEDT

Australia v New Zealand, 6:12am AEDT