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Men's sevens rue Games missed chance

Sun, 31/07/2022, 7:21 pm
Murray Wenzel - AAP
by Murray Wenzel - AAP
The Aussie 7s are London 7s champions after taking out an epic final in London.

Australia's men's rugby sevens program will leave Birmingham still scrambling for respect after an opportunity lost at the Commonwealth Games.

A 26-12 bronze medal game loss to New Zealand at Coventry Arena on Sunday night meant they missed the medals, a frustrating 24-12 loss to eventual champions South Africa earlier in the day sure to eat at John Manenti's side.

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Two runaway tries from broken play helped New Zealand seize control of the contest after their shock semi-final loss to Fiji meant they couldn't win a sixth title from seven attempts since the sport's 1998 introduction.

Australia have won two bronze and a silver in that time but had entered with high hopes of clinching a maiden Commonwealth title.

They sit a historic second on the World Series table with one leg to play next month, in a remarkable resurgence since Manenti's move from the women's program after the Tokyo Games.

That's despite their full-time contract list being halved to just six, Manenti forced to scour club rugby for top-ups and delivering the goods.

But, after admitting to AAP before the tournament that their mission was to regain some respect, he said they had dropped the ball.

"Definitely. We're sitting second on the world series, we're ranked two for the World Cup, so ultimately if you're not on the podium you've probably fallen short of the mark" he told reporters.

"We've got to be hard on ourselves and be realistic.

"I keep saying consistency is massive and the top teams, South Africa, New Zealand, Fiji, are consistent tournament in, tournament out.

"The men's comp is hard … and when you add Argentina and USA, France, to the mix, there's just tough games after tough games.

"We missed a chance to really ram that home. Thankfully we only have to wait three weeks for that next opportunity and a couple of weeks after that we've got a World Cup on."

Australia had ample opportunities to beat South Africa in the semi-final but rued a costly yellow card and smothered kick that both led to tries either side of halftime.

Adding to the pain was watching the Blitzboks stroll to a 31-7 win over Fiji in the final after the Fijians had beaten New Zealand in overtime to book their spot.

Australia can win the World Series for the first time if they are victorious in Los Angeles, before heading to a stand-alone World Cup in Durban in September.

"We can still achieve a bit and it's a pretty resilient group," Manenti said. 

"Part of that is copping the losses on the chin and learning from them. There's plenty to learn from this one."

The fitness of Wallabies star Samu Kerevi remains unknown after he hurt his knee in Saturday's pool action and was unsighted at the Arena beyond that.

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