London Sevens: Aussie men take silver at Twickenham

Mens - London
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Australia’s men have collected silver at the London Sevens in a 43-7 loss to a rampaging Fiji.

A final berth was already their best finish of the 2018-19 World Series but Australia were simply outclassed in their first London final since 2015 by a Fiji side desperate to stamp some authority.

Fiji controlled the momentum of the match from the opening seconds until the end, despite some gritty Australian defence slowing them down.

Things began at a frenetic pace in the decider with Australia hitting the Fijian defensive line at top speed.

A penalty ended Australia’s early attacking hopes and opened the door for Fiji, who scored in the third minute Vilimoni Botitu.

Fiji’s crazy offloading game kept them on top and led to a second try, through Aminiasi Tuimaba, off the following restart.

Australia had a genuine chance to score through Henry Hutchison but the speedster was pulled down before the line.

It took just a split second for Tuimaba to begin an attacking chain that he also ended, scooping up a loose ball that hit the deck.

Tuimaba’s second just shy of half-time stretched the gap to 19 points, setting a major challenge for Australia.

It looked as though the Aussies might hit back but an error put the ball back in Fiji’s hads and more insane offloading opened the door for a Tuimaba hat-trick to end a marathon nine-minute first half.

A Ben O’Donnell opened up the chance for Joe Pincus to score first in the second half nad keep Australia’s chances alive.

Fiji looked to hit back quickly and only a desperate, diving Lachie Miller stopped them from stretching a lead.

Josua Vakurunabili made no mistake with their next opportunity, stealing an Australian lineout deep in their attacking zone to score.

Alasio Naduva sealed the win with another try for the Fijians and they quickly ended the game as soon as the full-time whistle blew.

That match was Australia’s first Cup final since the 2018 Singapore decider, which was also a loss to Fiji.

Fiji, New Zealand and the USA all secured Olympic qualification with their results in London assuring them of a top four finish.

The Aussie Sevens took silver in London. Photo: Getty ImagesThe London title puts Fiji back at the top of the World Series rankings going into Paris, overtaking the USA.

Australia moves up one place to sixth after their second-place finish.

Australia coach Tim Walsh said he was proud of his side's effort in their best tournament of the season.

"Fiji were a class act in that final, showing again once they get momentum they are hard to stop and thoroughly deserve their victory here in London," he said.

“We were really pleased to make the final but it showed that you must respect possession against top sides like Fiji or they will punish you.

“Our defence worked hard in the match, but to be winning those Cup Finals you have to be consistently asking questions will ball in hand, not just in defence.

“Having said that I am very proud of this side’s efforts this weekend to make the Cup Final. We have finally showed some of the potential we have seen flashes of across two days of Rugby and that now needs to be the standard of things to come moving forward.

“Maurice Longbottom was a class act all weekend and took his game to a new level in attack and defence. Lewis Holland’s leadership was crucial to this side’s success and it showed with how the wider group responded when we needed to show some character."

The World Series moves to Paris for the final 2018-19 leg next weekend.

 

EARLIER


Australia’s men will play in their first Cup final in more than a year after beating France 31-24 in their Cup semi-final.

The Aussies last made a final back in Singapore 2018, coach Tim Walsh’s first tournament in charge of this side, but have battled for consistency since then.

A semi-final berth was already Australia’s best performance in four seasons in London and now they have a chance for their first Cup title in England since 2010.

Australia has made three Cup finals in London since then, with three silvers to show for it.

The Aussies were in control for most of the match against France, who knocked off New Zealand in their quarter-final.

A 19-point half-time lead put the Aussies well on top at the break before the French whittled that down to just seven points, but the Aussies' grit ultimately helped firm.

Lachie Anderson pounced on a France mistake from the kick-off to score just nine seconds into the final four match-up.

The next restart was not quite so good for the Aussies, falling short of the 10-metre mark, giving France a chance to hit back.

And hit back they did, with Stephen Parez collecting a long-range outside pass and powering over to even things up.

Henry Hutchison did it all himself to create Australia’s next try, weaving through the French defensive line three times before finding a route to the line.

Simon Kennewell had their third, opening up some breathing space for the Aussies in the kind of performance that has been all too rare from Australia this season.

Maurice Longbottom popped up just before half-time to score yet another in London, wrong footing a France defender to add to his tally for the weekend and give Australia a 19-point half-time lead.

Parez clinched his second to open the second half as they vied to run over the top of the Aussies and they were the team with all the momentum in the second half.

Thibaud Mazzoleni made it two in a row for France and left just a converted try between the two sides with three minutes to go. 

Josh Coward sealed the game with a superb defence-attack one-two punch.

Coward read a French lineout to perfection, cleaning up an overthrow deep in France's attacking zone and making some valuable metres, before running hard to put himself on the end of a Lewis Holland chip to score.

France had the final say with a Terry Bouhraoua try but it was too little, too late for them.

Australia will take on the winner of USA-Fiji in the Cup final at 2:57am AEST.

EARLIER

Australia has qualified for the Cup semi-finals for just the second time this season with a 29-22 win over South Africa in the quarter-finals.

Leading by as many as 17 points midway through the second half, the Aussies’ lead was whittled away in the final minutes but ultimately their strong start and some impressive defensive efforts from Maurice Longbottom sealed the game.

Henry Hutchison gave the Aussies the perfect start with a runaway try in the first minute.

Hutchison looked like getting another less than two minutes later but he was pulled down just short of the line.

Joe Pincus found pay two phases later,  though just getting the ball down as he was wrapped up in a Blitzboks tackle.

South Africa began to pile on the attacking pressure after that and after working it edge to edge Siviwe Soyizwapi found the line to narrow the gap to just five points.

A Pincus pass missed its target of Longbottom and gave the South Africans the chance to draw level through Justin Geduld.

Longbottom generated a last-gasp score for Australia on the final first-half play, putting Matt Hood over and giving the Aussies a seven-point buffer at the breaks.

Australia showed some smarts with Hood making some ground for the Aussies, opening the opportunity for the side to work it to the left edge for Hutchison to score a double.

Ben O’Donnell went over with four minutes to go and all of a sudden their lead had stretched out to 17 points.

Longbottom pulled off a game-changing defensive play, forcing a JC Pretorius knock-on over the line with just under two minutes to go.

The Blitzboks did get their reply off their next opportunity, through Muller du Plessis but with a 12-point advantage the Aussies still held the cards.

Pretorius had the final say on the game with a final play score but the Aussies’

The Aussies will take on the winner of the New Zealand-France quarter-final at 11:48pm AEST, LIVE on Kayo Sports.

RESULTS

Cup quarter-final

Australia 29 - South Africa 22

Cup semi-final

Australia 31 - France 24

Cup final

Australia 7 - Fiji 43