Australia’s quest for silverware came to an end on day three at the Sydney Sevens, despite starting the day in spectacular fashion when they played Wales in a quarterfinal clash.
Australia 26-0 Wales
The quarter final against the Welsh was a breeze in the park for the Aussies, when they trounced the visitors 26-0. Henry Hutchinson scored the first try of the match when he sprinted down the left hand touchline. It was controversial as whether the try stood or not as there were calls of a forward pass from Alex Gibbon. The Aussies though played to referee Richard Kelly’s whistle, and the try stood.
There could have been a second try moments later when Charlie Taylor ran onto a loose ball nearing Australia’s try line, but a tremendous chase by Wales captain Sam Cross denied the Aussies a second. Well so he thought. Kelly was in talks with his assistant for a penalty try. However, replays indicated that Cross made a slight push on the Aussie player, but evidently there was no penalty try awarded to Taylor.
Taylor was involved in the build up play again to give the Aussies the advantage. Stunning hands from Taylor who linked up beautifully with Gibbion ensured the Aussies would be 12-0 up with only a couple of minutes to play in the first half. Hutchinson who opened accounts then scored his second just before the half time buzzer. His try before half time was his fourth of the weakened and his 40th in his sevens career. Aussie Sevens vetran, James Stannard then converted his kick to give the hosts a 19-0 lead at the main break.
The second half resumed, but not in the way the Aussies would have hoped for. Wales was awarded a penalty, when Hutchinson tackled Owen Jenkins without the ball. The second half also saw changes to the Australian side when, coach Andy Friend introduced Mick Adams, Brandon Quinn and Simon Kennewell. However, it was a short lived moment for Adams. Moments after just coming on he copped a yellow card ensuring he was in the sin bin. But that was the only dent in the Aussies camp.
Wales never really looked threatening when they ventured forward, despite having the extra man and as well as dominating possession. Australia then put the cherry on top to ensure their side a semi final berth, when Kennewell linked up with Stannard, who then played it back to give Kennewell a try and more importantly the win.
Australia 12- 26 South Africa
Australia then got handed a difficult draw in the semi final when they had to face one of the most feared teams on the sevens circuit, South Africa.
And so it proved, and within a minute the Blitzboks opened the scoring with an excellent team try, that all started with speedster Seabelo Senatla. Senatla ran with the ball before being tackled by Tim Anstee, but Senatla had the support from Chris Dry, who then passed it off to Branco Du Preez, then back to Dry before giving the ball to Kwagga Smith to give South Africa the opening try of the game.
The Aussies then returned serve through an Anstee try. The tall 19 year old, showed us what he is capable of, when he used his pace to get Australia back in the game. Tate Mcdermott, passed the ball off to Anstee and the big man just ran to the try line. An unsuccessful conversion by Stannard ensured the game was still hotly contested with only two points in it.
Aussie fans and even more so the sevens team were left with a sour taste in their mouths, with yet another potential injury. Just after scoring a try, Anstee then had to came off the field with a potential concussion.
Earlier in the day, Australia got the news that there captain Sam Myers was ruled out for the rest of the tournament. So the news about Anstee was of some concern, not only for this tournament but with also Las Vegas looming.
The Aussies though didn’t let the news about Anstee concern them as they were trying get back on to the scoresheet. Henry Hutchinson offloaded to Adams who then kicked the ball forward however; he conceded a penalty for a high tackle.
At this stage the Blitzboks had the advantage and for Australia it was their third conceded penalty of the match. The Blitzboks were on the attack again and this time there captain Philip Snyman joined in the action.
Snyman kicked the ball forward into space, but he only found Stannard. Stannard then copped the Aussies fourth penalty of the game when he was lying on top of the ball, with no intention of playing it. That moment, lead to another Blitzboks try just before the half time mark when Du Preez passed it try scoring machine Senatla, who did not disappoint. The Blitzboks were up 12-5 at the interval.
The second half began in a rough and tumble affair. Moments after restarting play Stannard copped a high tackle and was awarded a penalty in which he kicked for touch. That was the tone for the Aussies in the second half, get the ball and kick for touch as Stannard chose that option again just after just previously doing it. At this stage the Blitzboks defence was too strong and resilient as the Aussies failed to breakdown their defence.
It didn’t help the Aussies case on the 4.47th minute mark when Mick Adams was shown to the sin bin after a lifted tackle on Du Preez, despite it being a forward pass. This endured some confusion. It was a forward pass by the Blitzboks but since Adams tackled Du Preeze without the ball and not in play it resulted in a South African ball.
It went from bad to worse for the Aussies as they were down to five men , when the experienced Stannard copped a yellow card on the 3.45th minute mark after tripping up a South African player. The Blitzboks took full advantage of their two extra players, when Rosko Specman set up a try for Dry who scored.
The credit though, should be aimed towards Specman who showed tremendous skill to keep the ball alive, when it all looked like it would go over the touchline.
Disaster soon struck the Australian camp when South Africa scored yet another try, this time from an Australian breakdown. Smith showed great anticipation when he stole the ball from the breakdown to give the Blitzboks their fourth try of the game, and luckily for the Aussies it South Africa’s last try of the day.
Simon Kennewell then made his mark when he scored a try right at the death, but it was little more than a consolation prize. The defeat from the Blitzboks ended Australia’s hopes of clinching their first piece of silverware this season, but there is no doubt Friend would have been happy with how far they have gone in this tournament after exceeding expectations. The Aussies were into the play off spot for a third and fourth play off against old time rivals, New Zealand.
Australia 14 – 29 New Zealand
Australia has already exceeded Friend’s expectation, after making the semi finals however; they were willing finish off strong and aim for third place. Just like South Africa another tough ask was ahead of them where they had to play New Zealand.
New Zealand also lost their semi final against a strong England side, despite it being even at half time. Just like Australia, New Zealand would want to make amends for their semi final loss.
New Zealand drew first blood, when Andrew Knewstubb showed his superb pace on the right hand side and was proved hard to chase down, before laying the ball of to Rocky Khan who had the simple task of just tapping the ball over the try line.
New Zealand was out in force again this time finding plenty of room in the Australian defence. New Zealand got the ball from the breakdown and gave it to Khan who played an inside ball to Sherwin Stowers, who then passed it off to Dylan Collier who sealed a great team try.
Australia were right back in the hunt when debutant Lachie Anderson, showed his pace to give the Aussies a much needed try.
Australia then made a meal of the scrum when it went wrong; New Zealand used their strength as a collective to push the ball forward and did so. Khan got the roaming ball forward, who then gave it to Collier. Collier then passed it to captain DJ Forbes who scored New Zealand’s third while riding a tackle before half time.
Just after the interval New Zealand looked a much stronger side and so it proved. Khan once again proved his pace after receiving a ball from Regan Ware who then burst through the pack. He then lofted a long pass to Trael Joass to give the Kiwi’s their fourth try of the match.
Australia would not die wondering as debutant Brandon Quinn scored his first try in the green and gold, when Kennewell drove forward before passing the ball off.
Australia’s hopes of making a comeback were short lived, when Ware proved too difficult to breakdown as he side stepped Hutchinson before sprinting to the try line.
There was a baptism of fire in the Aussies, when Hutchinson decided to take the game on in the dying seconds. He made a dazzling run down the right hand side in order to spur his team on for one last try. It nearly paid off, when he kicked the ball forward and collected it himself but he then passed it off to a New Zealand player. That signalled the end of the bronze medal match, which New Zealand was victorious over Australia 29-14.
The defeat means Australia finishes the Sydney Sevens in fourth place, a vast improvement from the previous two tournaments. There were plenty of positives from the Aussies with many debutants exceeding expectations.
Up next for the Aussies are Las Vegas and the Vancouver Sevens.