Vancouver Sevens: Aussies 6th again as Fiji lift title
Photo: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby
The Australian Men’s Sevens side have finished in 6th place for the second successive tournament after going down 31-14 with a depleted squad to England in the 5th place play-off.
It was a disappointing end to a day that had promised so much when the Aussies led series leaders South Africa 19-0 in the Cup Quarter-Final. But the Blitz Bokke fought back with 24 unanswered points to win after the bell and leave the men in gold with a 5th place semi-final against Argentina, who had been smashed 43-5 by eventual tournament champions Fiji.
Things got worse for Australia when captain Lewis Holland, Tom Connor and Lachie Anderson were all ruled out of the Argentina clash through injury, meaning 13th man Brandon Quinn was called into the side. But a gutsy effort against the odds earned them a 28-24 victory that took them into their last game of the day against England.
A couple of early tries soon had the English in pole position, and despite a revival from the Aussies after the break, the impact of the injuries took it’s toll as they ran away 31-14. The result keeps Australia in 4th place on the overall HSBC World Series ladder, with champions Fiji – who downed Kenya 31-12 in the final – pushing leaders South Africa hard.
He’d been the star of the show on day one for Australia, and John Porch picked up exactly where he left off against South Africa, with two penetrating early runs opening the door for Ben O’Donnell to run in the first.
A yellow card to points-machine Cecil Afrika was an open invitation for the Aussies to profit, and they did just that with O’Donnell turning provider for Lachie Anderson before Porch got in on the act himself to forge an imposing 19-0 lead. But that was as good as it got.
The Blitz Bokke returned to a controlling possession game after the restart, and two tries from the lightning feet of Siviwe Soyizwapi had them firmly back in the contest. With the clock running down Australia tried to see the game out, but a charge down gave the returned Afrika a chance to find the chalk, and the conversion from Branco du Preez had them all square at 19-all.
The Aussies were in possession and looking for the knockout blow as the game entered overtime. But a penalty gifted South Africa back possession and they didn’t waste it, showing their champion’s pedigree to send Dylan Sage over off a set-piece to break green and gold hearts.
Severely hamstrung by the triple-injury blow ahead of the 5th place semi-final against Argentina, the remaining members of the squad – plus 13th man Brandon Quinn – aimed up in impressive fashion. Tim Anstee got them off to a dream start as he finished off some tidy build-up play from Tom Lucas, and then the ‘John Porch Show’ TM clicked into gear again, the Northern Suburbs wing sensation grabbing a quickfire double for his seventh and eight tries of the tournament.
When Ben O’Donnell went over for another just before half-time, Australia had opened up a 28-0 advantage over last week’s semi-finalists in Las Vegas. But things can change very quickly in Sevens, and when Anstee went to the bin shortly after the restart the Argentinians pounced, Lautaro Bazan Velez and Gaston Revol both crossing to half the deficit.
When Renzo Barbier added another shortly after to make 28-19, a repeat of the South African collapse hoved into view. But the depleted Aussies held firm, and despite a fourth try from their opponent’s after the siren, they saw out a gutsy spirited victory over one of the Sevens circuit’s fastest improving teams.
That just left a clash with the old enemy, England, and a chance to finish 5th. But this time, the fast start went to the opposition, captain Tom Mitchell running in the opener from 40 metres, before veteran Dan Bibby profited from a loose carry to add a second.
Jesse Parahi – who was worked tirelessly over the last two weeks – had the Aussies back in contention by oranges. But the extra workrate required by the limited playing stocks was starting to tell, and a triple salvo of five-pointers from Harry Glover, Dan Norton and Charlie Hayter took England out of range at 31-7.
They still managed to conjure up a consolation try after the final whistle to – who else? – John Porch. But despite the unforeseen injury toll, 6th place was not where head coach Andy Friend had wanted this weekend to finish.
“We’re disappointed with finishing sixth, we had our chances, had our big chance in the quarter-final and to let 19-points slip against South Africa, that’s pretty hard to take.
“I thought we fought back well in our next game but to lose that last one against England, that was tough as well.
“Lewis (Holland) has a little bit of a hamstring twinge, Tommy Connor looks like he’s done something to his eye socket and Lachie Anderson copped a bit of a head knock so we just had to look after him there.”
Australia 19 South Africa 24
Tries: Ben O’Donnell, Lachie Anderson, John Porch
Cons: James Stannard 2 cons
Australia 28 Argentina 24
Tries: John Porch 2, Tim Anstee, Ben O’Donnell
Cons: James Stannard 4 cons
Australia 14 England 31
Tries: Jesse Parahi, John Porch
Cons: James Stannard 2 cons
Round 7 of the HSBC World Series gets underway in Hong Kong on April 6th