Aussies out of sevens medals contention
11 August 2016
RUGBY SEVENS: The Australian men’s rugby sevens team has bowed out at the quarter-final stage after a 22-5 defeat to an impressive South African outfit at Deodoro Stadium tonight.
In a quirk of the draw, the Aussies faced the same opponents in the last eight as the one they defeated at the start of the day in pool play.
South Africa were far more aggressive at the breakdown in the second game with Australia finding it increasingly difficult to exit its own 22 in the first half.
Rosco Specman scored the opener after four minutes when, after a prolonged period of possession, he spotted a gap in the Australian defence to dot down.
Try-scoring machine Seabalo Senatla added a second within a minute but the men in green and gold reduced the deficit on the half-time siren when Tom Cusack powered over from close range.
Andy Friend’s side had one golden opportunity to level the scores early in the second half when he ripped the ball from Kwagga Smith’s grasp just five metres from the line but Australia couldn’t make it count.
Within two minutes, Kyle Brown extended South Africa’s advantage and the result was put beyond doubt when Senatla seized upon a loose ball over the tryline to score his second of the game and seal the win.
“We thought we found a new gear coming into day two,” said Cusack, who was named in the tournament dream team for Day 2.
“You saw our performance after beating South Africa in the pool game but we came out expecting they would step it up another gear which they did.
“They got a good start, we got back into it, but then they got a jump on us again. “We were under the pump after that first loss against France on day one.
"We never do anything easy so we knew we were in for a battle for the remainder of the tournament.”
Skipper Ed Jenkins admitted the defeat was a tough pill to swallow.
“It’s devastating. We’ve put a lot of hard work in, not just in the last couple of months but the last couple of years,” Jenkins said.
“To go out so early is shattering, it probably hasn’t even sunk in yet.
“I thought we bounced back well this morning after yesterday’s performance, but we came up against a totally different South Africa side this evening.
“The competition is so tight on the men’s side. It’s been a funny old tournament.
“New Zealand are sitting on one from four and anyone on their day can win this gold medal.
“Frustrated is the word I’d use to describe this past two days. If we could have got a result against France first up we’d have had a totally different draw, but it wasn’t to be.”
Japan are the surprise packet in the men’s rugby sevens, having beaten New Zealand and Kenya in pool play, before scoring at the death against France to book a place in tomorrow’s semi-finals.
Jenkins praised their efforts. “Japan have worked really hard since our training run against them and have had the luck of the draw a bit,” he said.
“I guess they’ve created their own luck by knocking off some of the top sides. Good luck to them.”
Despite the defeat, Jenkins said he was looking forward to savouring what the Olympic Games has to offer over the next week.
“We’re still part of this campaign and it’ll be nice to support our fellow athletes in Rio. I’m sure the boys will get amongst it and enjoy the Olympic experience,” he said.
Tomorrow, Australia will round out its campaign by playing for the 5th-8th classification matches.
First up for the Australians will be Argentina at 2pm (AEST).
In tomorrow’s Cup semi-finals, tournament favourites Fiji will play Japan while Great Britain meet South Africa.