The Australian 7s Mens side traveled to Hamilton, New Zealand this weekend as the defending champions of the Sydney 7s two weeks ago.
They may have fallen just short of their expectations due to change of line-ups and injury list, but the men in green and gold have done their best to end their weekend in the Tasman with enormous relief.
Match 1: Australia v Spain
Try-scoring machine Ben O’Donnell opened the account for the Aussies just two and a half minutes into the first-half.
Color Commentator, Karl Te Nana analyzed explained the perfect execution on Live TV of how Tom Lucas cuts in the pass on the inside and then feeds the ball to O’Donnell who safely has the ball all the way to the try line.
Stand-in captain, James ”Chucky” Stannard successfully converted that kick to make it Australia 7-0 Spain.
The only mistake that robbed Australia’s possession is the forward pass where Spain had the opportunity by letting their skipper Manuel Sainz kicking the ball on his half to Ignacio Martin before passing back to Sainz to make a late try into half-time.
Nice comparison again by Te Nana for comparing Ignacio Martin’s backward pass to Sonny Bill Williams.
Commentator Greg Clark was undoubtedly delighted if Martin heard that contrast with Sonny Bill in the World 7s Series circuit, rating him as rapid.
Francisco Hernandez unsuccessfully converted that kick as Australia are two points ahead of Spain 7-5 ahead of half-time.
Again, Tom Lucas made a stunning pass to Tom Connor who smoothly ran more than half of the pitch to score his first try of the match and his Sevens World Series career in the 9th minute.
The Spanish defense was too broad which created a nice full-on pass between Lucas and Connor as James ”Chucky” Stennard successfully converted his second kick of the match to extend Australia’s lead to 14-5.
Tom Lucas made another late cut where he successfully executed that pass to Lachie Anderson who scored his first try of this match.
Having seen James Stannard rested on the bench for Maurice Longbottom, Lucas took over the kicking duties himself as he successfully converted the goal to give Australia an extra two points before they won the first Pool A match v Spain, 21-7.
Match 2: Australia v Wales
It was a tight start by the Aussies when the Welsh gained early control of possession in their defense.
Both teams made a series of turnovers, but neither of them managed to score a try apiece.
With the score being scoreless going into half-time, Aussies 7s Head Coach Andy Friend made an early substitution by bringing in Maurice Longbottom in an aim to break the Welsh defense.
90 seconds later into the second half, Ben O’Donnell made the most of himself thanks to the play on advantage when he first brushed off the tackle by feeding to Lachie Anderson before he managed to pop up a pass back to O’Donnell who finally ended the deadlock with a try.
James Stannard made his first successful kick of the 2nd match as he lifted Australia to an extra two points, 7-0.
Sam Myers managed to create a stunning pass to Maurice Longbottom where he seamlessly scored another try between the sticks before ”Chucky” Stannard made another successful conversion to give Australia an extended lead to 14-0.
Hari Millard quickly responded to that scorecard by running past the Australian defense when he scored the first try for Wales with around two minutes left in play.
Straight after the Welsh try, Sam Myers responded brilliantly with his run-up before he offloaded the pass to Charlie Taylor as he ran all the way to score his first try of the weekend.
Into the dying seconds of the second half, Ben O’Donnell made a simple one-on-one try to give the Aussies the perfect start in Hamilton with a 26-7 win over Wales.
Match 3: Australia v Fiji
With both teams unbeaten so far in Pool A and is already through to the Cup Quarter-Final rounds, there has only had to be one winner to end out as the winners in this group stage.
The Fijians made an excellent start to the match where a beautiful pass to Eroni Sau ran 70 meters just like as if he was competing in the 100m final sprint for Track & Field to score their first try.
A few minutes later, Sam Myers and Tim Anstee formed a great combination with some solid offloads before Anstee breaks past the Fijian defense to give five points up for Australia.
Lachie Anderson made a stunning sprint before he provided some assistance to Anstee who managed picked up his second try of the match.
With Australia leading by three points going into the final play of the first half, Fiji made up lost time as Kalione Nasoko created some typical Fijian flare to Josua Vakurunbali where he scored his first try of the match as Fiji leads the Aussies 12-10 heading into Half-Time.
The introduction of Maurice Longbottom made an immediate impact where he gave the offload to Lachie Anderson before he scored another try to the Aussies as they lead 15-10.
However, their defense was cut loose by the Fijians where Jasa Veremalua and Eroni Sau scored another two tries in the 10th and 14th minute respectively to give the Aussies their first loss of the day with a 26-15 defeat to Fiji.
Australia v Spain: 21-7
Australia v Wales: 26-7
Australia v Fiji 15-26
Australia ended Pool A in 2nd place with two wins v Spain and Wales and one loss v the winner of Pool A Fiji.
There is one positive they made at the end of Day 1 is that have gone into Sunday when Australia go up against Kenya in the Cup Quarter Finals.
Cup Quarter Finals v Kenya
Australia made a succession of tries beginning with Sam Myers when he opened the score in the opening minute.
Tom Lucas cuts in a solid offload to John Porch in the wing to make Porch’s first try of the day before forming a dominant midfield to assist Lachie Anderson’s successful finish to the try-line.
A yellow card from the Kenyans at the restart gave the Aussies the opportunity of ensuring two more tries as they led 33-0 before half-time through Ben O’ Donnell and Anderson.
Things look nasty as Maurice Longbottom was stretched off with an ankle sprain while making a tackle.
Although, the Kenyans fight back with two more tries in the second half. However, it wasn’t enough to deny the Aussies as they won 33-12 when they advanced to the Cup Semi-Final match against South Africa.
Cup Semi-Final v South Africa
There wasn’t good news for the Australian 7s side at all when it comes to the treatment room as Maurice Longbottom was unable to participate the rest of the day with an ankle injury.
13th Matthew Hood came in for Longbottom before the whistle blew into the 2nd Cup Semi-Final.
Without the strength of Longbottom, the Aussies 7s side became weakened when Cecil Afrika scored the first try for the Blitzboks side.
Western Province and DHL Stormers star Seabelo Senatla scored the second try for South Africa before Tim Anstee made a late successful attempt for Australia as they trail by 5 points going into half-time.
Ben O’Donnell almost gave back the lead to the Aussies, but a knock on from James Stannard cost them of securing a successful try.
Then their defense was lightweight when Cecil Afrika scored his second try of the match in the 9th minute followed by Lions flanker Kwagga Smith in the 14th minute to force the Aussies of battling the 3rd place playoff v New Zealand by 24-5 loss to South Africa.
Third Place Final v New Zealand
Australia had the upper hand with the possession in the opening minutes of the first half.
However, Kiwis skipper Scott Curry forced a turnover to give himself and his New Zealand side the lead 7-0.
In the closing minutes before half-time, Kurt Baker was given a sin-bin after making an aggressive tackle around the neck of John Porch that left the Kiwis with six men.
John Porch immediately stole a loose carry where he managed to score the first try for the Aussies.
Although the conversion wasn’t successful, they were two points behind the Kiwis.
With seconds left in the second half, the game was about to belong to the Kiwis thanks to a knock from James Stannard.
However, Stannard made up lost time from a knock-on to relief of joy with a penalty kick as the stand-in skipper send the Aussies home with a third-place finish by a single point, 8-7 against New Zealand.
Australia v Kenya: 33-12
Australia v South Africa: 5-24
Australia v New Zealand: 8-7
Australia is fourth in the 2017-18 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Tournament as of Sunday with 60 points.
They are two points behind Fiji in third, nine points behind New Zealand and seventeen points behind leaders South Africa.
Aussie’s 7s Mens Team in the 2017-18 season so far
Most Points Scored: 607 at 2nd place behind South Africa at 645 points.
Most Tries Scored: 96 at 2nd place behind South Africa at 104 tries.
Most Conversions Scored: 62 at 2nd place behind South Africa at 67 conversions.
Most Penalties Scored: 1.
Most Yellow Cards: 2 at 14th place.
Most Matches Played: 24 alongside Fiji, New Zealand, and South Africa
Most Tackles Made: 4th place at 427 behind Fiji in 3rd with 431 tackles, South Africa in 2nd by 492 tackles and New Zealand in 1st by 495 tackles.
Restarts: 109 at 2nd place behind South Africa with 110 tackles.
Australia has come this week seeking to claim another back to back victory following their triumph in the Sydney 7s.
But it’s not that easy to maintain that momentum after losing the much-needed strength of three players of Lewis Holland, Boyd Killingworth, and Jesse Parahi.
Plus two more injuries to Maurice Longbottom and Ben O’Donnell.
Nevertheless, despite the number of players lost to the treatment room; the Aussies 7s side did their very best in staying in the fight as a team, and Andy Friend praised James ”Chucky” Stannard for his fighting spirit and his leadership of the team.
Once the men in green and gold resume their 7s duty in Las Vegas in three weeks time, Friend is expected to see Holland, and Parahi returning to on-field duty.
Ben O’Donnell will be okay and expected to carry on the sublime performances he auditioned last weekend into the next few rounds of this World Sevens Series campaign.
Though, we will be expecting to see news from Longbottom on his ankle scan in the next few days as there’s no timeline set on his return at this stage.
Apart from the injury news, Friend is optimistic that the Australians 7s Mens side are ready to look into the future on a brighter note as they take on a set of gold medals for the rest of this season.
The next time the Australian 7s Mens team will be in action is the USA Sevens at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada on Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th March 2018.
References: The Image of the Australian 7s crest is sourced from the official Rugby.com.au site.
Standings and the use of Team Statistics is sourced from World Rugby.