Las Vegas Sevens Day One: Up and down start for Aussies
Photo: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby
Coming off the back of a win in Sydney and third place in Hamilton, the Australian Men’s Sevens team kicked off the fifth leg of the HSBC World Sevens series in Las Vegas in buoyant mood. But it was to be an opening day of up’s and down’s in Sin City as they swatted aside Spain 24-0 in their first match, only to fall 28-7 to a fired up USA in front of their home crowd in game two.
Ben O’Donnell was a standout once again, bagging two tries against Spain as the Aussies scored a brace in each half to do it easily over one of the lower ranked sides in the series. A Tom Lucas try and 9pts from the evergreen James Stannard rounded out the scoring in a game that also saw the return of Jesse Parahi to the green and gold.
“It was a good start to the day,” head coach Andy Friend reflected afterwards. “While it wasn’t a clinical performance, the important thing was keeping them scoreless.
“We were dominant at the breakdown, and it was pleasing to see Jesse contributing to that and getting back to what we know he’s capable of as he gets more time under his belt.”
But the positivity of their opening hit-out was soon undone by a clinical USA side, no doubt keen to put on a show for their fans at the Sam Boyd Stadium.
The early signs were ominous with speedster Perry Baker crossing inside a minute, and a loose pass soon opened the door for Martion Iosefo to make it two. But the flying Hawaiian’s second before half-time was all his own work, as he went 50 metres and left a trail of gold jerseys in his rearview mirror to find the line and make it 21-0.
The writing was well and truly on the wall when Baker punished a gap to race away for his double after the break. And despite a late try from Dylan Pietsch for the Aussies after good work from skipper Lewis Holland, the damage was already done and the hosts ran out convincing 28-7 victors.
It was the manner of the performance that perplexed coach Friend more than the result, and he was all too aware of the improvements that need to be made ahead of the crunch Pool C clash against Samoa tomorrow, which will decide which half of the draw Australia head to for the remainder of the tournament.
“They (USA) are a good team, but we made them look good tonight and there were some things in that performance that haven’t been there in our past two tournaments. It came down to not doing the simple things well. We gave them a head start and a lot of it was our own doing. Across the board, just too many simple errors.
“We need to get back to doing the things that were working for us, and that was doing the simple things well and being physically dominant. We will need to be far more clinical than we were today, and we will be.”
Australia’s golden girls also had a mixed bag on the first day of their five-match series against the USA. Coach Tim Walsh’s side got off to a flyer with a comprehensive 29-10 win over their hosts, before an out-of-sorts effort in game two saw them fall 26-12. They get another two shots at each other tomorrow before a fifth and final contest on Monday.
Australia 24 defeated Spain 0
Tries: Ben O’Donnell 2, James Stannard, Tom Lucas
Cons: James Stannard 2
Australia 7 lost to USA 28
Tries: Dylan Pietsch
Cons: Charlie Taylor
Australia v Samoa, 8.26am AEDT tomorrow (Sunday 4 March), FoxSports