Hamilton Sevens: Australian men grab confidence-boosting bronze, women finish fourth

Mens - Hamilton
by Iain Payten

The Australian men's sevens team picked up some valuable confidence heading into the Sydney Sevens next weekend by downing England and winning bronze in Hamilton.

The Aussie women couldn't make it a pair of bronzes, however; they fell to France in their third-fourth playoff.

Australia's men team scored five tries in their big 33-21 win over the English and it was a strong finish to a tournament where they'd lost tight games against powerhouses Fiji and, in the semi-final, New Zealand.

It was the highest finish for Australia since a silver medal in London last season but the medal came at a cost, with Ben O'Donnell all-but certain to miss Sydney Sevens with a knee injury sustained in the semi.

"It was a really good weekend for us and a good stepping stone for next week in Sydney. That’s the best result of the season so far and hopefully we can go a bit better next weekend," new Aussie skipper Nick Malouf said.

"Hopefully (Sydney) will be even a more polished performance than what came out this weekend. We dropped two games against Fiji and New Zealand and games like that are ones we’d like to be winning. Just the next step up next week and today’s a great day to be an Australian."

It was a big turnaround for the Aussie team after they finished a lowly twelfth in their last start in Cape Town. They still sit fifth on the series ladder.

Aussie coach Tim Walsh said he was pleased to see the side bounce back and play good football in New Zealand.

"Overall, pleased, because it is obviously an improvement and the real positive is we didn’t play our best," Walsh said.

"We went away from what we wanted to do against Fiji and paid the price, and as unpredictable as sport can get, the Argies did us a favour and we snuck through.
 
"Against New Zealand it felt like we had their measure in many aspects but didn’t get the win, and then finished strong against England. So yep, pleased I guess because it is an improvement from our last outing, which is great."

The Kiwis won their home tournament by beating France 27-5 in the final.

Australian women's coach John Manenti rolled out his youngsters in the bronze medal match, keeping one eye on the unprecedented Hamilton-Sydney back-to-back swing.

The inexperienced team fell into the hands of a more physical French team, who pounced on Aussie errors and ill-discipline to register a 19-14 win.

New Zealand women's side won the inaugural women's tournament by beating Canada 24-7 in the final.

6.20pm - MEN'S BRONZE - AUSTRALIA 33 ENGLAND 21

Australia saved their best until last and raced in five tries to three to down England in their bronze medal clash.

England scored first immediately from the kick off but the Aussies dominated thereafter, holding the ball for long stretches and troubling England at the line.

Lachie Anderson scored a powerhouse try to start, carrying players over from 15 metres out, and Rod Davies finally got a chance to turn on the afterburners when he scored out wide in the sixth minute.


Josh Turner was impressive all weekend and he scored another try after the break, before Henry Hutchison also capped a strong tournament by racing in the next two tries.

His last was on the end of a lovely grubber from Lachie Miller, who promises to be a special player in the future.

Australia led 33-5 but let England in for some consolation tries at the end, wrapping up their best finish of the season.

5.50pm - WOMEN'S BRONZE - AUSTRALIA 14 FRANCE 19

The youngsters of Australia’s women’s sevens team were handed some lessons in physicality as they fell to France in the bronze medal clash.

With one eye on his stars needing to back up for Sydney sevens next weekend, coach John Manenti elected to rest his more senior players and fielded the back-half of his roster, many of whom are teenagers.

The French turned up the pressure physically and Australia relented by playing far too deep and far too sideways, and not only did they not threaten the drifting defence, they gave away easy territory as well.

Lina Guerrin scored in the fourth minute and Shannon Izar added a second a few minutes later, giving France a decent lead.

When Faith Nathan finally took the line in the 7th minute, she found success, slipped out of a tackle and raced away to score.

Australia’s chances of overhauling France’s lead were shot when Australia continued to play far too deep, and when stuck in their half, Sariah Paki was sin-binned for kicking away the ball after a France penalty.

The French used their extra numbers to score a third try soon after.

The game was gone when Demi Hayes also elected to stop going sideways, stepped through the line, and raced away 80 metres to score a consolation try.

3.10pm - MEN'S - AUSTRALIA 14 NEW ZEALAND 17

The Australian men’s team paid the price for lapses in discipline and breakdown focus in a three-point semi-final loss to New Zealand.

Helped into the semi-finals by Argentina and their win over Fiji, the Aussie men were determined to make the most of their opportunity and they turned in some of their best form in recent memory in the first half.

New Zealand scored first via Ngarohi McGarvey-Black, who finished off a nice loop play in the midfield, but Australia dug deep and worked their way back into the Kiwi half via an astute long clearance kick.


They turned the ball over and good continuity saw them open space on the right, and new skipper Nick Malouf slid through a gap to score and make it 7-5.

The injection of Maurice Longbottom proved influential again, and with his hot feet breaking open the defence in the middle of the field, he surged forward and found Henry Hutchison in support.

The speedster raced away and scored under the sticks and the confident Aussies had a 14-5 lead.

A gamble by Longbottom to go for an intercept when the game resumed proved costly, however.

The 2019 Aussie sevens player of the year was yellow carded and the Kiwis showed ruthless efficiency in making Australia pay.

With the extra man so advantageous in sevens, New Zealand scored through Regan Ware in the ninth minute and then Dylan Collier scored again a minute later.

The game was still on the edge at 14-12 when Longbottom returned, however, and it appeared like the Aussies would get the last say when a promising play took them forward and downfield.

A moment’s hesitation from Longbottom playing at halfback was all that was needed for New Zealand, who counter-rucked successfully and turned the ball over.

It was the decisive moment but showing how cut-throat sevens is, Australia botched it and showed that ruthless composure in the championship minutes is the last five percent for a hard-working and talented team if they want to turn brave losses into regular wins over the likes of New Zealand, Fiji and South Africa.

Longbottom saw another yellow card late as he desperately tried to turn the ball over, which meant an automatic red card.

Australia will play England in the bronze medal game at 5.59pm.


1.55pm - WOMENS - AUSTRALIA 14 CANADA 28

The Aussie women’s season of near-misses continued with a defeat to Canada in the semi-finals of the Hamilton Sevens.

Australia haven’t come close many times but haven't won a title since they won in Sydney in 2018, and they were hopeful to turn the tables in New Zealand.

The semi-final started well against the strong Canadians, when Australia applied good patience and scored through Sharni Williams after several minutes of build-up, and a nice try-assist pass by Ellia Green.


Bianca Farella responded for Canada just a minute later but the Aussies went into the break with a 12-7 lead after Cassie Staples broke away and found Green in support.

Kayla Moleschi scored first for Canada after the break but the lead swapped again when Dom du Toit scored a superb solo try, after she bounced back to her feet from a tackle and raced away 50 metres.

Australia just had to hold out the Canadians but a bad one-on-one miss by Emma Sykes saw Charity Williams break through the line and score, giving them a two-point lead.

The chance for Australia to snatch the win was lost when Canada won back the re-start and Ghislaine Landy slipped through another tackle to score a fourth and final try.

11.10am - MENS - AUSTRALIA 33 SAMOA 19

It was a morning for heroic hat-tricks by the Aussie sevens teams, with a treble from Josh Turner helping Australia finish their pool games with a 33-19 victory over Samoa.

But the victory came at a cost, with Ben O’Donnell helped from the field with a serious knee injury and ruled out for the rest of the day. 

Just a few hours after Ellia Green ran in three tries for the Australian women's team, Turner’s strike power turned the game for Australia’s men against the ever-tricky Samoans.

Samoa scored first after a loose pill was spilled near the Aussie line but Turner scored his first a few minutes later when he ran hard at the line and carried traffic over.

Samoa re-took the lead when Elisapeta Alofipo cruised in an easy try out wide near the halftime hooter but Australia scored a crucial try deep into extra time, with Lewis Holland’s straight running setting up Turner for a second.

A Joe Pincus try after the break, courtesy of a sweet inside pass from Maurice Longbottom, pushed Australia further ahead but again Samoa refused to go away and they scored a third, also soon after.

But with strong defence late, and Longbottom and Holland running the attack directly, Australia posted another two tries to seal the win, with Turner racing in a third and Longbottom taking a beautiful flat try-assist pass from Holland late as well.


Given Australia had lost to Fiji 19-12 on day one - and the Fijians favoured to beat Argentina - the win over Samoa appeared too little, too late but the South Americans went on to prove everyone wrong and beat Fiji.

That saw Australia top the pool and they progressed to the semi-finals. 

8.10am - WOMEN - AUSTRALIA 19 USA 14

A hat-trick from Ellia Green, including a very late match winner, steered Australia to a dramatic final pool round victory over the USA, which secured the Aussies a spot in the semi-finals.

With only the pool winners qualifying automatically, and neither the USA or Australia having the for-and-against to progress as the 'best second', both sides knew they had to win the game to stay alive.


In a see-sawing encounter that saw the lead swap several times, Green was the star for the Australians.

She scored her first try in the second minute when the Australians responded to strong USA defence by kicking long, and following a second Emilee Cherry toe-ahead, Green scooped up the ball and scored on a trailing run.

The USA's bounced back and scored through Kris Thomas, via some lovely footwork from the speedster.

Australia had to be patient against good US defence but re-took the lead just before halftime when turned the ball over and Sharni Williams fed Green on the left wing for a 50-metre runaway.

Knowing the series points impact of not winning, and missing the finals, the second half had the feel of a playoff.

The USA's power saw them re-take the lead with three minutes remaining when Alev Kelter raced away for a converted try and a 14-12 lead.


But Australia stayed patient, and attacking in the last few minutes, probed for a gap or a weak shoulder.

Green eventually found the latter, and bounced through a tackle to find an open line ahead.

The win means Australia will play Canada at 1.36pm in the first semi-final.

AUSTRALIA 19

TRIES: Green 3

CONS: Green 1, Sykes 1

USA 14

TRIES: Thomas, Kelter

CONS: Kelter 2

 

SQUADS

Women's Sevens

1. Rhiannon Byers, University of New England, NSW, 4 caps

2. Sharni Williams (c), University of Canberra, ACT, 32 caps

3. Sariah Paki, University of Technology Sydney, NSW, 9 caps

4. Cassandra Staples, University of Queensland, NSW, 10 caps

5 . Emma Tonegato, University of Wester Australia, NSW, 28 caps

6. Demi Hayes, Griffith University, Queensland, 10 caps

7. Dominique Du Toit, University of Western Australia, QLD,

8. Madison Ashby, University of Technology Sydney, NSW, 3 caps

9. Emma Sykes, University of Queensland, QLD, 5 caps 

10. Alicia Lucas, University of New England, NSW, 32 caps

11. Emilee Cherry, University of Queensland, QLD,

12. Ellia Green, University of Melbourne, Victoria, 28 caps

13. Faith Nathan, University of Technology Sydney, NSW, 2 caps

Men's Sevens

1.Nick Malouf (c), University of Queensland, 36 caps

2. Joe Pincus, Easts (Sydney), 8 caps

3. Lachlan Anderson (vc), Eastwood, 23 caps

4. Jeral Skelton, Brothers, 16 caps

5. Jesse Parahi, Norths (Sydney), 46 caps

6. Dylan Pietsch, Randwick, 14 caps   

7. Maurice Longbottom, Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team, 16 caps

8. Josh Turner, Manly, 2 caps

9. Lewis Holland (vc), Queanbeyan, 48 caps

10. Ben O’Donnell, Randwick, 18 caps

11. Henry Hutchison, Randwick, 27 caps

12. Lachlan Miller, Randwick, 8 caps

13th Rod Davies, 2 caps

FIXTURES

All times AEDT.

Women

Sunday January 26

7:51am - Australia vs USA

1:36pm - Cup semi-final 1`

1:58pm - Cup semi-final 2

6:26pm - Cup final

Men

Sunday January 26

10:35am - Australia vs Samoa

2:20pm Cup semi-final 1

2:42pm - Cup semi-final 2

6:56pm - Cup final