The Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens team have finished the 2016/17 HSBC Sevens World Series in sixth place, following the final leg in London.
Australia was defeated by the United States of America in their Cup Quarter-Final before beating New Zealand by a record margin in the Fifth Place Semi Final. Australia couldn’t finish it off with a win though, as they went down fighting in the Fifth Place Final, to 2016/17 HSBC Sevens World Series Champions South Africa.
Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens Head Coach Andy Friend said: “I thought the boys did really well to bounce back and put 40 points on New Zealand, who have been a really tough team for us to beat.
“And then we had the chance to beat the current World Champions at the end and for all bar the last 30 seconds, I thought we were going to win that. A disappointing day with positive signs but we finished sixth at the tournament and sixth of the season so it’s probably a fitting result.
“Looking back on the year, when we were good, we were very good and when we were bad, we were rotten. The highs and lows of that are too far apart so we need to flatten that out. That’s part of having a young squad, we’ve been guilty of inconsistencies so we need to look at that.
“I have been really impressed by the young squad, they have a lot of fighting spirit and in time we’ll be able to turn them into a championship winning side. There’s been a lot of talk about the young players but you need the older heads too, like James Stannard who led us so well over the past two weeks.
“We have six tournaments that we’re looking at in between now at the next World Series. The most important thing for me is to get more players playing whether it’s club competitions or through the nationals or what have you.
“When I get back, I’ll continue to have discussions on how we can support that, not just at a senior level but at a junior level too to really open up opportunities for everyone to be playing the game of Sevens,” Friend said.
Australia finished the season with 113 points with a third-place finish in Hong Kong the highlight.
Meanwhile, Scotland were the eventual winners in London as they defeated hosts England 12-7 in a tense final at Twickenham.
Australia 14 defeated by USA 31
It didn’t take the United States of America long to find speedster Perry Baker out wide, the leading try scorer in 2016/17 HSBC Sevens World Series touching down for his 52nd try of the season. Maka Unufe making it 12-nil to the USA after four minutes as Australia couldn’t get their hands on the ball. Unufe grabbed a double shortly after, before Alex Gibbon eventually earned Australia their first points of the game, as he fended his way past Unufe to score under the posts and make it 19-7 at the break.
Baker raced into the second half and earned his 53rd try of the season, with Australia unable to get a hand on the American flyer. It was a hat-trick of tries just a minute later for Baker as he extended America’s lead to 31-7. It got even more for painful for Australia and James Stannard off the restart with the Aussie skipper losing a tooth from an unintentional bump. Simon Kennewell grabbed a consolation try after full-time as he raced away 70 metres to score down the right edge.
Australia 40 defeated New Zealand 7
Australia dominated the early possession and looked to have made New Zealand pay after Boyd Killingworth barged over, only to be held up over the line. Tim Anstee capitalised off the ensuing scrum as he dotted down under the posts for Stannard to convert. The lead didn’t last long though as Tone Ng Shiu was the beneficiary of a lighting New Zealand break, to level the scores. Some slick hands from Australia sent Anstee away down the left edge, with the forward showing a turn of speed before passing back inside for Liam McNamara to grab the five-pointer and give Australia a 14-7 lead at the break.
Stannard bursting out of the blocks in the second half, starting the play on Australia’s 40-metre mark before finishing off a top team try to extend the lead to 19-7. Dylan Pietsch the next Australian to join the scoresheet as an acrobatic dive in the right corner earned the 18-year old his first try of the weekend. The floodgates well and truly open in the second half as Australia turned ‘Harlem Globetrotters’ for Simon Kennewell to roll over for his five-pointer. Anstee grabbing a double on the stroke of full-time to give Australia a 40-7 win over New Zealand, their highest-ever points tally over the All Black Sevens.
Australia 17 defeated by South Africa 28
The 2016/17 HSBC Sevens World Series Champions were waiting for Australia in the Fifth Place Final, and the Blitzboks didn’t disappoint early as they grabbed an early 7-nil lead. John Porch continued his superb London form, with a show-and-go splitting South Africa’s defence to bring it to 7-all. Cecil Afrika wasted no time for his reply though, swooping on the restart and showing his speed to score under the posts. Australia edges back just on half-time as Simon Kennewell shrugged off a high tackle to score his fifth try of the weekend.
Afrika gave the Blitzboks a handy 9-point buffer early in the second half, as South Africa’s highest-ever points scorer darted through for his second try. Australia secured some solid field position as they worked their way downfield thanks to a barnstorming Kennewell and Alex Gibbon was the eventual scorer out wide to close the gap to 17-21. It wasn’t to be for Australia though as Rosko Specman closed it out for South Africa with a runaway try on full-time.
HSBC Sevens World Series, London, Day Two results:
Australia 14-31 USA
Australia 40-7 New Zealand
Australia 17-28 South Africa