The Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens have fallen to South Africa in the Fifth-Place Playoff at the HSBC Sydney 7s at Spotless Stadium.
Australia lost to Fiji in an agonizing defeat in their Cup Quarter-Final earlier on in the day, leaving the men in gold in the battle to finish fifth.
In front of a sell-out day three HSBC Sydney 7s crowd, Australia came from behind to defeat France in the Fifth-Place Semi-Final to set up a rematch from their Pool with South Africa.
Australia started well against the Blitzboks but injuries to Maurice Longbottom, Ben O’Donnell and Lewis Holland left Australia men down on the bench.
Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens vice-captain Jesse Parahi said: “It was always a tough ask with basically nine players but I thought we did well to stay in that game and we fought hard.
“Unfortunately, it’s a bitter way to go out. We went out there and did our best but we are disappointed.
“We still have half the season left, it is a long season and teams will be moving up and down the table. We need to work harder and look after each other,” Parahi said.
Australia 17 defeated by Fiji 22
Spotless Stadium was rocking as Fiji and Australia ran out for their Cup Quarter-Final and the hosts grabbed the early momentum as Maurice Longbottom scored in the corner but injured his hamstring in the process. A Fiji turnover from the kick-off allowed them to hit straight back though to level the scores. The injuries continued to hurt Australia as substitute Josh Coward joined Longbottom on the sidelines with Ben O’Donnell already ruled out because of concussion. A seesawing first half ended with Fiji going the length of the field to score in the righthand corner for a 10-5 lead at the break.
Australia started the second half brightly and had Fiji down to six men after a yellow card for dissent. Jeral Skelton was quick to make the visitors pay as Australia spread the ball wide to level the scores at 10-all with four minutes left to play. It was all Australia off the restart and a sharp wraparound play from reserve Brandon Quinn put Jesse Parahi away to score to restore the hosts’ lead. Fiji struck back almost immediately though to level the scores once again with the roof threatening to lift off at Spotless Stadium. The visitors wrestled back momentum and made Australia pay as supersub as Alosio Naduva sealed the comeback 22-17.
Australia 17 defeated France 14
Australia had to bounce back in their Fifth Place Semi-Final against France and Henry Hutchison got the hosts off to the perfect start with a try in the left-hand corner for a five-nil lead. A length period of possession for France eventually paid dividends as Australia fatigued towards the end of the opening period and conceded their lead to the visitors.
A slow opening to the second half for Australia didn’t help the hosts as France ramped up their defensive pressure and soon converted to push their lead out to 14-5. Junior star Jeral Skelton took matters into his own hands as Australia spluttered in attack and the youngster was rewarded with a 60 metre burst and scored under the posts to narrow the margin to just two points. Skelton proved the matchwinner moments later as he skipped free of the French defence to dot down for an Australian lead and seal a berth in the Fifth-Place Final.
Australia 10 defeated by South Africa 17
The Fifth-Place Playoff was a re-match of their final Pool D clash as Australia squared off against South Africa again at Spotless Stadium and the visitors were the first to strike, thanks to an 80 metre breakaway by Selvyn Davids for a 7-nil lead. A monster tackle by Nick Malouf fired up the hosts though and they quickly stole possession and raced down field for John Porch to score after the half-time siren to trail by two points at the break.
Australia came out fired up in the second half and bulldozed their way over for the lead thanks to a charging Nick Malouf. It was an end-to-end encounter as South Africa flung it from left to right to force their way into the contest and eventually found Kyle Brown out wide to score the matchwinner on the final siren.