The men’s sevens tournament kicked off this morning with a number of injuries to key players including New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams and Aussie play-maker Lewis Holland.
Both Australia and New Zealand lost their opening pool matches with Australia going down to an energetic French side 31-14. Williams was helped off the field with a ruptured Achilles in New Zealand’s shock 14-12 loss to Japan. Australia got into the winners circle with a 26-12 victory over Spain and will now have to face an unbeaten South African side in their final pool match.
Some sloppy line-out play from Australia handed France possession twice early in the first half. Terry Bouhraoua scored the first try of the tournament off a penalty tap, stepping through some soft defence to score under the posts. Bouhraoua scored his second after cleaning up a loose ball from a knock-on by Virile Vakatawa which went unnoticed by the referees. France opted to take a difficult penalty shot on the stroke of half-time to take the score to 17-0.
Australia were able to recover the ball from their own kick to start the second half and showed a lot more fire, running in two quick tries. Captain Ed Jenkins, the most capped Australian, provided some brilliant support play for the second try after a long run from Cameron Clarke to take the score to 17-14. France was without the ball for the first 4 minutes of the second half but scored off a deflected chip kick before Bouhraoua ran in his third try to put the win out of reach.
Australia’s win over Spain was overshadowed by an injury to Holland who suffered a hamstring tear. Tom Kingston has been brought in to replace him. Some silly mistakes from Australia allowed Spain back into the game but the Aussies proved too strong in the end.
New Zealand will have to finish the tournament with only 11 players after they also lost Joe Webber to a tournament ending injury. Rules state that only one injured player may be replaced during the games.
Gold medal favourites Fiji are on track after defeating Brazil and Argentina. Australia sit second in Pool B and will have to beat South Africa to guarantee a spot in the quarterfinals. They could scrape through with a loss if they are the best third placed team among the three pools. – Andrew Cullen.
Photo of Australia warming up before match against France from Aussie 7’s Twitter page.