Injured Aussie men go down fighting at Sydney Sevens

Injured Aussie men go down fighting at Sydney Sevens

February 3, 2019

A depleted Australia can finish fifth at best after their Sydney Sevens defence was ended by a see-saw 22-17 quarter-final loss to Fiji.

The hosts started well at Spotless Stadium, controlling possession for the first three minutes to go ahead through Maurice Longbottom's try.

Too good: Mesulame Kunavula scores for Fiji in their victory over Australia at Spotless Stadium.Credit:AAP

But a hamstring complaint forced the playmaker off the field and his replacement Josh Coward limped off after the next play as Fiji immediately levelled.

Out on their feet, Australia couldn't defend persistent Fijian raids and a late try gave the visitors a 10-5 half-time lead.

A yellow card to Mesulame Kunavula for throwing the ball away allowed the hosts back in it, with Jeral Skelton and Jesse Parahi crossing for a 17-10 lead.

Kunavula returned to score immediately and level the scores, before he sealed the contest with a double in the final minute as the Fijians edged closer to three straight world series tournament wins.

The loss ended Australia's title defence and left them to play France, who were thrashed 28-5 in their quarter-final by New Zealand, in a classification game later on Sunday.

Coach Tim Walsh said Australia needed to learn from the narrow loss and in particular the small errors that separate them from the best in the world.

"(It's important that) whenever you get the opportunity, and you don't get many, that you take them," he said.

"Fiji can score from anywhere on the field, they'll do it in the blink of an eye.

"At our best we're up there and should be on the podium, it's about finding that mental toughness and resilience."

Australia's remaining games still hold plenty of meaning in an Olympic qualifying season, where the top four sides earn automatic berths in Tokyo next year.

Jeral Skelton gets over the line for the home side.Credit:AAP

Currently sixth in the standings, Australia can finish fifth in Sydney and earn just two points less than the team that finishes fourth.

"Everyone's fighting for every single point so we have to dust ourselves off and make sure we finish this round on a high and make sure we take every single point on offer," he said.

Longbottom and Coward are both unlikely to return for the remaining games while Ben O'Donnell was a casualty of day two after copping a head knock.


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