Las Vegas Sevens Day Two: Aussies fall to clinical BlitzBokke
Photo: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby
The Australian Men’s Sevens team will have to make do with a 5th place play-off against Kenya at the Las Vegas Sevens, after falling to the reigning champion BlitzBokke 29-17 in the Cup Quarter-Finals at Sam Boyd Stadium.
They earned their place in the last eight with a hard-fought 24-7 win over Samoa earlier in the day, which ensured a second-placed finish in Pool C behind the unbeaten hosts, USA. But it took a while to break open the Sir Gordon Tietjens coached Samoans.
A try either side of half-time from Jesse Parahi and John Porch – the latter a dazzling dive for the line from the prolific 24-year-old – had Australia in the ascendancy. And when Lachie Anderson added a third soon after following some neat interplay, the result seemed to be done and dusted.
However, Samoa finally concocted their own score through Laaloi Leilua to keep the men in green and gold on their toes, and replacement Tom Lucas put James Stannard over near the end to put the icing on the cake.
That set-up a third straight meeting with series leading South Africa, having lost to the BlitzBokke in the semi-finals in Hamilton a week after they emerged victorious against them in the Sydney decider to lift the title.
It was Australia who opened the scoring, the predatory Porch catching the opposition defence napping to dive under the posts from a metre after being awarded a penalty.
South Africa put together some textbook Sevens play to level matters, their ball movement and support play hard to withstand as Philip Snyman went over. But Australia were ahead again within a minute, Porch tearing it up the right flank past Cecil Afrika, and kicking ahead for himself to touch down again.
Stannard couldn’t add the extras from out wide, and the pendulum swung back in favour of the champions before the break, replacement Ryan Oosthuizen on the end of another slick piece of attacking play to make it 12-all at the break.
But from there it was the Cecil Afrika story. The points machine went up a level in the second stanza, pouncing on a spilt kick receipt to weave his way through for South Africa’s third, before repeating the dose moments later to put Ruhan Nel away for a fourth, and a 24-12 lead.
The Aussies certainly weren’t helped by some over zealous breakdown decisions from a referee who seemed content to reward a contest over the ball with a penalty, regardless of whether possession was actually achieved by the would-be pilferer.
When Selvyn Davids went in off a lineout play Australia’s fate was sealed, but they still had the wherewithal to play to the end, and got a deserved third when Jeral Skelton opened his account on the World Series stage for a final score of 29-17.
“There was a lot of that game we were happy with, going into the break at twelve-all, but you drop the opening kick off in the second half and you’re right on the back foot,” bemoaned head coach Andy Friend afterwards.
“I thought there were some tough calls against us at crucial moments, but we don’t want to make excuses. Our execution, our speed of support, and accuracy on the ground wasn’t good enough. We definitely had our chances. We’ve got to get through Kenya tomorrow to give ourselves a chance to grab fifth, which is the best we can do now.”
The Cup semi-finals will be contested by Fiji and the USA, and Argentina and South Africa.
The resumption of hostilities in the five-match series between Australia’s Women’s Sevens and the USA was put on hold, after concerns over the quality of an outside field playing surface caused officials to call a halt to proceedings. With the scores level at one win apiece, the two sides will – hopefully – play out two more matches tomorrow.
Of course, this does beg the question as to why the women weren’t performing on the same field as the men. Seems we still have some way to go in erms of equality.
Australia v Kenya – 5th place Semi-Final, 7.50am AEDT tomorrow (Monday 5 March)
Pool C match
Australia 24 defeated Samoa 7
Tries: Jesse Parahi, John Porch, Lachie Anderson, James Stannard
Cons: James Stannard 2
Australia 17 lost to South Africa 29
Tries: John Porch 2, Jeral Skelton
Cons: James Stannard