‘Too many simplistic errors’: Australia’s men and women lose HK Sevens semis to NZ as Olympic selection battle heats up


Series leaders Australia have suffered a blow in their women’s and men’s world sevens title battles with New Zealand, losing their semi-finals at the Hong Kong Sevens.

Australia’s women lost 28-14, while the men went down 24-7 on Sunday, with both New Zealand sides going on to claim the title.

The Australian women at least enjoyed the consolation of finishing third in Hong Kong by winning their bronze medal match 24-21 against France after a terrific fightback.

Australia’s Henry Paterson carries the ball during their semi-final loss to New Zealand at Hong Kong Stadium on 7 April, 2024. Photo credit: Mike Lee – KLC photos for World Rugby

But the men, with Michael Hooper in their ranks, lost 14-5 to Ireland in their third-place playoff. 

In the women’s series, after six events, New Zealand and Australia are now locked on 106 points at the top of the table.

But it was the Kiwis, winners of the previous two events, who proved too classy late as they pulled away against their perennial rivals after the scores were locked 14-14 at halftime.

Legendary winger Portia Woodman-Wickliff scored a crucial late try for the Kiwis, who went on to thrash USA 36-7 in the final.

Errors by the Australians proved costly in the second half, and Kiwi playmaker Jorja Millar ended any hopes of an Australian fightback as she scored in the dying seconds.

Australia had an edge in the first half after star winger Maddison Levi landed a heavy tackle on Woodman-Wickliff then raced away with the spilled ball to score.  

New Zealand answered through Michaela Blyde before skipper Charlotte Caslick backed up to break from halfway and put Australia back in front 14-7.

But New Zealand again had an answer, with captain Risi Pouri-Lane making a brilliant break from halfway the level the scores going into the break.

Women’s coach Tim Walsh was left admitting: “We made too many simplistic errors which proved costly in our overall outcome.

“Winning and/or learning, we need to learn more efficiently and train better.”

New Zealand captain Risi Pouri-lane races away to score against Australia during their semi-final win at the Hong Kong Sevens on 7 April, 2024 in Hong Kong, China. Photo credit: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby

Australia lost powerful outside back Bienne Terita early in the tournament and her absence proved telling, as the 2016 gold medallists struggled to get on the outside of the Black Ferns.

But her early withdrawal did allow Walsh to give some precious minutes to his emerging stars, including Bridget Clark, who showed her trying scoring prowess by running 50 metres to score in Australia’s come-from-behind win over France in their bronze medal match.

“An impressive way to finish our Hong Kong campaign,” Walsh reflected. “We envisaged an Olympic bronze medal match scenario to test ourselves and played accordingly.

“We were forced to field an understrength team due to a few last-minute injuries and our debutants played very well and provided further depth and experience for now and the future.”

How about that ????

We reel in a 14 point deficit in the last 3 minutes to win bronze after the buzzer! ????#Aussie7s #HSBCSVNS pic.twitter.com/a2oprBmZ8R

— Australia Sevens (@Aussie7s) April 7, 2024

Australia’s men’s team also were swamped by their trans-Tasman rivals and defending Hong Kong champions.

New Zealand ran in two tries in each half while Australia struggled to crack a defence that conceded only four tries on the way to the semi.

Speedster Maurice Longbottom bagged Australia’s only try, using sheer pace after a goal-line scrum to briefly put Australia ahead 7-5 with the conversion.

Longtime Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper debuted in sevens for Australia at the tournament, but the 32-year-old 125-Test veteran remained on the bench in the semi.

He did, though, get his first start against the Irish in the bronze medal match.

“Unfortunately we didn’t nail our detail in today’s games,” Manenti said. “It’s a real dampener to finish in that fashion but we played some of the top teams in Fiji, France, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland and in most cases we played some excellent Sevens.

“Our defence was fantastic. The things we’ve been working on showed great improvements. We continue to grow and work towards the greater goal of the Olympics.

“I would also like to congratulate Henry Hutchison on his 50th world series – a fantastic achievement.”

New Zealand went on to claim their 13th Hong Kong men’s title by beating France 10-7 in the final.

It meant New Zealand moved up to fifth place in the series, one place ahead of the Aussies, with Argentina leading the way.

The next leg on the World Series tour is in Singapore, starting May 3.

With AAP

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.