Relief for Aussie Sevens men after securing Olympic spot

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by Beth Newman

A weight has been lifted off the shoulders of the Australian men’s Sevens side after they booked their ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with a win over Samoa on Saturday.

Australia had to take a win at this weekend’s Oceania Sevens tournament to secure their Tokyo spot, after missing out on the top four automatic qualifying spots in the Sevens World Series.

Anything less than a victory on Saturday would have pushed them into a global repechage just a month out from the Olympics.

It was an incredible chargedown from captain Lewis Holland that stole the win for the Aussies, who trailed 12-0 at the half-time break, and he admitted there was an overwhelming sense of relief after the result was secured.

“It's a bit of a relief I guess,” he said after the qualifier final.

“The last three months have been building towards this moment because we didn't get there through the World Series, that was our first goal and this was our second hurdle we had to get over if we didn't overcome the first one. 

“To get that game out of the way is a really big relief.”

Coach Tim Walsh said the clarity of knowing they had secured their Olympic spot certainly made the path for the next 10 months much simpler.

“It's very difficult to peak in June and peak again in July for the Olympics,, I can throw that other play away,” he said.

“This makes planning a little easier and gives us a lot more freedom to make sure we are fully prepped for the Olympics and not doubling up our peak performance.”

The Aussies had to contend with some tricky conditions in the title decider, as the rain bore down in Suva, leading to an error-riddled outing from both teams.

Walsh admitted his team was below its best against a physical Samoan outfit, that rattled the Aussies with some bone-crunching hits, but was proud they found a way to win.

“We didn't perform at our best (today), that's for sure and we will take some lessons out of that but preparation is key in any walk of life, but to try and simulate that kind of pressure is very difficult,” he said.

“I’m proud of the whole program, the boys that didn't play, the boys that are over here and didn't play.

“Finding a way to win is probably the most pleasing thing out of this whole event.”

Samoa were unravelled by sloppy discipline, that gave the Aussies a one-man advantage for close to half the match and Walsh said he was confident his side would be able to outlast their opponents.

“We were composed but Samoa they were outstanding, they physically took it to us and they owned us there,” he said.

“That was always going to be their tactic and we had our tactics on how to nullify  that but also the big play around the discipline, came through in the end. 

“I think if they had seven on the field, it would've been a much different game, not necessarily a different outcome though.

“That's the sign of a good team and how we're learning is we're finding ways to win under a lot of pressure...just do the basics really well and the other team will make mistakes, and that's what happened.”

The Aussies will fly back to Australia on Sunday ahead of next month’s season-opening Dubai Sevens.