The Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens produced a stunning fightback at the HSBC Sydney 7s to book a Cup Quarter-Final against Fiji tomorrow (Sunday) at Spotless Stadium.
It seemed their aspirations of going back-to-back in Sydney were all but over after a shock defeat to Argentina but a remarkable try in their final game of the day secured an memorable finals berth.
The equation was simple but the task near impossible as Australia faced the prospect of having to beat HSBC Sevens World Series heavyweights South Africa by six points or more in their last game of the Pool stage.
Australia left it to the very last play of the game with Nick Malouf stepping away from the South African defence to run 60 metres to score, much to the jubilation of the Spotless Stadium crowd.
The defending Sydney 7s champions will now play the defending Olympic Gold Medallists, Fiji, in Sunday afternoon’s Cup Quarter-Final.
Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens coach Tim Walsh said: “We knew we had to win by six (points) so it was a real moment to embrace and own, and fair play, they (players) came up with the goods. It was an emotional roller coaster but finally it was a good one.
“The boys put in the effort and they worked hard. We got our opportunity and we took it and we’re into tomorrow now which was the first step. Now we have to repeat the way we played today for three games tomorrow.
“Fiji are an amazing attacking team. They will score tries so it’s how you respect the ball when you hold onto it. Defensively you can shut them down but it’s easier said than done,” Walsh said.
Australia 14 defeated by Argentina 29
Argentina enjoyed the brighter start in Australia’s opening game of the 2019 Sydney 7s as Mateo Carreras made the most of an early turnover to race away for the opening try. Henry Hutchison then dived over following a break from Australian hot-stepper Maurice Longbottom but the try was called back because of a forward pass. A lightening run from Longbottom gave Australia strong field position shortly after and they capitalised from a set play for Simon Kennewell to score out wide and make the score 7-5 at the break.
Argentina struck straight back after half-time though as Cinti Luna raced away to score under the black dot and restore their five point lead. It was all Argentina after a poor kick-off receipt by Australia allowed the visitors to extend their lead to 12 points with five minutes left to play. It didn’t get any better for Tim Walsh’s side as Lachie Anderson was sent to the bin for two minutes and Argentina took the drop goal penalty for a seemingly unassailable 22-7 lead. The unlikely became the impossible shortly after with Argentina extending their lead to 22 points after another poor exit by Australia from their own half. The final score was narrowed to 29-14 though after captain Lewis Holland combined with substitute Josh Coward to send Longbottom away to score.
Australia 32 defeated Tonga 0
It didn’t take Australia long to shake off the disappointment of their first up clash against Argentina as the hosts scored within 15 seconds thanks to an intercept from Lachie Anderson. Tonga couldn’t find their way out of their own half and Australia soon had a 10-nil lead thanks to skipper Lewis Holland who scored his 100th Sevens World Series try. It was all Australia in the first half and they pushed the lead out to 15 points after a mazing run from speedster Henry Hutchison down the left wing. Jesse Parahi made Tonga pay on the half-time siren as the man nicknamed ‘Bull’, bulldozed his way to the try line to make it 22-nil at the break.
Anderson continued the onslaught in the second half after Holland picked out Maurice Longbottom, who drew the oncoming defender and set Anderson away for the team’s fifth try of the game. A red card for Tonga’s Tali Finau gave Australia a one man advantage for the last two minutes and it didn’t take them long to capitalise as Holland grabbed a double in the corner to seal a 32-nil win.
Australia 29 defeated South Africa 21
Needing a six point win to keep their Cup hopes alive, Australia were on the front foot early and Jeral Skelton skipped his way through the South African defence to make the score 5-nil. Lewis Holland kept the pressure on as the skipper broke his way through several would-be tacklers to push the margin out to 12 points. The captain had a double soon after as Holland dived over in the corner for a 17-nil lead but South Africa struck back through Justin Geduld to bring the margin back to 10 points on the half-time siren.
South Africa edged to within three points just after half-time as Geduld grabbed a double before Stedman Gans gave the visitors their first lead of the match at 21-17. A yellow card for Geduld gave Australia hope though and Josh Coward didn’t take long to capitalise after he combined with Jesse Parahi to race away and give the hosts back the lead. Australia had one last chance after full-time and Nick Malouf didn’t need a second invitation, running 60 metres to score in the corner for a memorable win.
Australia’s heroics capped an exciting day for the home fans as the Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens booked a Cup Semi-Final berth against Ireland following their win over France