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'Misfits, a bunch of weirdos': Australia knock New Zealand out of Hong Kong Sevens

By AAP
New Zealands Akuila Rokolisoa (C) fends off Australias Stuart Dunbar (R) on the second day of the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament on November 5, 2022. (Photo by Peter PARKS / AFP) (Photo by PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images)

Australia’s world series men’s sevens champions may be a bunch of “misfits and weirdos”, as one of their players puts it with a smile – but they also appear to becoming serial winners.

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On Saturday, they roared into the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Sevens while consigning New Zealand’s rugby men to an unprecedented early exit.

The Australians found their best form in a winner-takes-all pool stage match, running in four tries to beat their trans-Tasman rivals 24-17 and book a last-eight date with Ireland.

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It meant a ragged-looking New Zealand outfit failed to reach the knock-out stages of the sevens circuit’s premier tournament for the first time and it was only the second time in 21 years they’d failed to make the quarter-finals of a world series event.

Australia, who sealed the last world series in August in Los Angeles, had to deliver their best after they’d earlier lost their other group match 22-17 to Samoa, the tournament’s surprise packets who’d also hammered New Zealand on Friday.

It raised the unexpected prospect of the two group favourites having to face what was effectively a knock-out tie in the day’s final match at the Hong Kong Stadium.

Coach John Manenti’s Aussies started brightly as Jimmy ‘The Jet’ Turner burst on to the ball for a fine opening try in the first minute.

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After Moses Leo had put the All Blacks back in it, a Dietrich Roache snipe down the right wing restored the Australians’ control before some individual magic from Maurice Longbottom saw him shuffle, feint and power his way to a third try.

The New Zealanders’ fate was effectively sealed straight after the break with Nathan Lawson’s interception score, with late tries from Sione Molia and Leroy Carter not camouflaging another sub-par performance.

But for the Australians, it was another example of the team’s togetherness to rebound from the Samoa loss.

“Against Samoa, we just didn’t really stick to the structure, but it was a pretty big game against the Kiwis so we just stuck to what we said we’d fix, and it paid off,” said the lively Turner.

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“We all love each other, we’re a bunch of misfits, a bunch of weirdos, but we just come together! Even five minutes after the Samoa loss, we were over it, smiling about it.”

His ‘misfits’ comments referred to how Manenti, faced with budget cuts, found unlikely players from Sydney club rugby and fringe Super Rugby talents for his Australian men’s sevens project.

Now, they’re looking real threats for the Olympic title in France two years hence.

Earlier on Saturday, Samoa had followed up their 24-0 win over New Zealand with their narrow win over Australia, for whom Henry Hutchison, Henry Paterson and Darby Lancaster all scored tries.

Five-time defending champions Fiji still looked the team to beat as they topped their group unbeaten to set up a blockbuster quarter-final with South Africa’s ‘Blitzboks’, who scraped through despite losing to France.

The other quarter-finals will feature Samoa against Argentina and the unbeaten French versus the USA.

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M
Mzilikazi 8 hours ago
Swashbuckling Hurricanes and Harlequins show scrum still matters

I always enjoy a good scrum based article. Thanks, Nick. The Hurricanes are looking more and more the team to beat down here in Australasia. They are a very well balanced team. And though there are far fewer scrums in the game these days, destructive power in that area is a serious weapon, especially an attacking scrum within in the red zone. Aumua looked very good as a young first year player, but then seemed to fade. He sure is back now right in the picture for the AB’s. And I would judge that Taukei’aho is in a bit of a slump currently. Watching him at Suncorp a few weeks ago, I thought he was not as dominant in the game as I would have expected. I am going to raise an issue in that scrum at around the 13 min mark. I see a high level of danger there for the TH lifted off the ground. He is trapped between the opposition LH and his own powerful SR. His neck is being put under potentially dangerous pressure. The LH has, in law , no right to use his superior scrummaging skill….getting his head right in on the breastbone of the TH…..to force him up and off the ground. Had the TH popped out of the scrum, head up and free, there is no danger, that is a clear penalty to the dominant scrum. The law is quite clear on this issue: Law 37 Dangerous play and restricted practices in a scrum. C:Intentionally lifting an opponent off their feet or forcing them upwards out of the scrum. Sanction: Penalty. Few ,if any, referees seem to be aware of this law, and/or the dangers of the situation. Matthew Carly, refereeing Clermont v Munster in 2021, penalised the Munster scrum, when LH Wycherly was lifted very high, and in my view very dangerously, by TH Slimani. Lifting was coached in the late ‘60’s/70’s. Both Lions props, Ray McLouglin, and “Mighty Mouse” McLauchlan, were expert and highly successful at this technique. I have seen a photo, which I can’t find online atm, of MM with a NZ TH(not an AB) on his head, MM standing upright as the scrum disintegrates.

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