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Defensive lapses cost Australia in tight battles with rivals at Oceania Sevens

By AAP
(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Australia have been left to rue some key defensive lapses after suffering tight losses to Fiji and New Zealand in the men’s competition at the Oceania 7s at Ballymore Stadium in Brisbane.

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The Australian men and women’s teams entered the three-day event having already qualified for the 2024 Olympics.

But the guaranteed ticket to Paris didn’t mean the home sides were going to take it easy.

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The Australian men opened their campaign on Friday with a 24-0 romp over the Oceania Barbarians and their first match on Saturday resulted in a 47-5 win over Niue, running in seven tries.

But the Aussies were brought crashing back to earth against Fiji later in the day when they blew a 10-0 lead on the way to a 28-22 loss.

Against NZ in the final match of Saturday, Australia went down 14-10 in a hard-fought contest to leave them third in Pool A on eight points, behind Fiji (12) and NZ (10).

Fiji and NZ will battle it out on Sunday in the Oceania final for bragging rights.

“It was a good hitout for the boys,” Australian Sevens player Nathan Lawson told Stan Sport after the loss to the Kiwis.

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“We’ve got a young squad, so it’s pretty good to come here and play against some world-class teams.

“It was a tough hit-out. We were on top for parts, but there were some lapses in D (defence), and that’s what games are built on, and sadly we weren’t there.”

The Australian women got better and better during their five-match series against a strong NZ Development side.

The two sides fought out a 21-21 draw in their opening clash on Friday, before the Aussies prevailed 21-19 in the second encounter later that day.

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On Saturday, the Australians produced a valiant display on the way to a 26-12 victory in their first clash of the day.

The re-match at night was a one-way affair as Australia ran out 40-12 winners with the final match to come on Sunday.

The Oceania 7s involves 25 teams from across the Pacific for 66 matches (35 men’s and 31 women’s) over three days.

For some nations, Olympic qualification is still up for grabs.

For other nations like Australia, it’s a final tune-up before the new-look Sevens series starts in Dubai in December.

Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and the Solomon Islands remain in Olympic contention for the men’s competition, with only one spot up for grabs.

In the women’s section, PNG and Fiji loom as the ones to beat for the sole spot in Paris after topping their pools.

They’ll face Tonga and Samoa respectively in Sunday’s semis.

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