Las Vegas Sevens: Australia blow title shot with quarter-final loss to Samoa

Mens - Las Vegas
by Iain Payten

Australia have come crashing to the ground with a thud after a win over Fiji was followed by a quarter-final loss to Samoa.

The Samoans hadn't beaten Australia in two years but their defence was too strong for the wasteful Aussies.

Lewis Holland missed the game after being suspended for a dangerous tackle in the Fiji game.

They will now play in the fifth-placed semi-final against England at 7.50am (AEDT) on Monday.

2pm - SAMOA 21 AUSTRALIA 20

Australia have continued their Jekyll-and-Hyde season by crashing out to Samoa in the quarter-finals in Las Vegas.

Having played superbly to beat Fiji earlier in the day and top their pool, Australia drew the “easier” opponent of Samoa but again couldn’t maintain consistency and crashed out in a one-point loss.

The Aussies trailed for most of the game but clawed back to score and make the score 21-20 inside the final minute. 

John Porch had a conversion attempt to take the lead but missed, meaning the Aussies had to score again to win.


They attacked for a long period but couldn’t crack the Samoan defence, and the game came to an end when Australia flirted with danger by spinning to the sideline, and Porch was rocked into touch with a huge hit.

It was the first win for Samoa over Australia since 2017 and another frustrating quarter-final defeat for the Aussies in a hair-pulling 2018-19 season.

Having done the hard work of beating Fiji, and on the easier side of the finals draw, the Australian side weren’t able to play clinically and get past Samoa.

The Australian defence had been strong all tournament but fell away considerably against the physical Samoans, who rode contact and looked threatening every time they had the ball.

In the tight final stages, when keeping the ball in play was needed, the absence of Lewis Holland and his composed leadership and game smarts was felt.

The Aussies proved they had the capacity to hold the ball for long stretches at the start of the game, and scored first through Porch.

But missed tackles and allowed the Samoans to score twice under the sticks and push out to a 14-5 lead.

Liam McNamara’s stepping saw them score after halftime and reduce the deficit to 14-10, and Ben O’Donnell scored from a tap after the break to take a 15-10 lead.


All tries being scored wide didn’t help Porch conversion attempts in a strong wind.

Samoa scored easily soon after though and re-took a 21-15 lead.

Australia needed a converted try but when Simon Kennewell crossed with a powerful charge, it was again wide out and Porch missed the extras.

Australia attacked side to side in the dying stages but couldn’t get past the Samoans, and a huge hit finally ended their night and hopes of a Las Vegas title

 

11.45am - HOLLAND SUSPENDED

Australia will be without their skipper Lewis Holland for the remainder of the Las Vegas Sevens after he was suspended for a dangerous tackle.

World Rugby Sevens announced that Holland had been cited of a dangerous tackle on Fijian Waisea Nacuqu in the opening minutes of their final pool match victory.

The hit helped Australia score and saw Nacuqu leave the field.

Holland was found guilty and an initial six-match suspension was reduced to three.


But with only three finals remaining at the USA event, Holland will play no further part in the tournament.

His loss will be a big blow for Australia, who are already missing playmakers Maurice Longbottom and Josh Coward.

7.10am - AUSTRALIA 26 FIJI 15

Australia have scored their first win over Fiji in three years with a gutsy victory in the last pool game at Las Vegas.

The Aussies dominated the first half and pushed out to a 19-5 lead but found themselves under huge pressure near the end of the game after Fijians fought back to 19-15.


But superb defence at the death saw John Porch steal the ball at a ruck and the ensuing play gave Lewis Holland a yawning gap and the match-sealing try.

The win meant Australia topped pool A will play either Samoa or Canada in the quarters, and not New Zealand.

The Australian side scored twice in the opening half through Jeral Skelton and Ben O’Donnell as they controlled possession well, and Fiji struggled with ill-discipline and handling errors, and only managed one try in reply to Jerry Tuwai.


They went down a man and Australia made them pay after the break, when Simon Kennewell scored the third try.

As they do, Fiji fought back with two more quick tries but Australia’s defence at the death held firm for a drought-breaking victory.