Wallabies take Shanghai title
April 8, 2001

Australia claimed the Shanghai Sevens title on Sunday, pipping South Africa 19-12 in the final.

Glen Ella's men, who had to beat Fiji and New Zealand to reach the last two, dug deep at the end of a fascinating tournament in the impressive Pudong Yuan Shen Sports Centre.

Playing the final without regulars Julian Huxley, who injured his ankle in the 19-7 semi-final win over New Zealand, Scott Barton (head injury) and Alan McDonald (groin strain), Australia just managed to hold out against the Springbok's. "They've been in battle today," Ella said afterwards. "This was a very, very tough tournament for us. We've never played Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa in a row before."

Saturday's upsets by South Africa and South Korea had sent Pacific giants Fiji and Samoa into the bottom half of the draw, making a mockery of the seedings.

In the final, a solitary try from Rob McDonald was all the Aussies had to show for almost total possession in the first half.
Shortly after the breather, Tim Donnelly broke the South African line again, then recycled the ball back for star of the day Cameron Pither to touch down in the corner.

At 12-0 up and enjoying the run of play, Australia should have coasted home but South Africa struck back with two tries in the last minute from Jorrie Muller and Johan van Niekerk to even things at 12-12 at the hooter. As play continued, Pither burst through to grab the vital score. "We are our own worst enemy sometimes," Ella said, as he recalled how they threw away a 12-0 lead a week earlier in Hong Kong against New Zealand. "It was like a deju-vu. I thought surely we can't do this again."

Skipper Richard Graham said that with the two-try lead they started to play a short game instead to swinging it wide. "We were doing so well at the start," Graham said. "We used the width of the pitch and dominated the game. So when things started to go wrong, I told the boys to attack again and use the wings." Australia had earlier edged past Fiji 5-0 in the quarters, as all four top seeds found themselves in one half of the draw. Pither, who scored the only try of that match, said that was probably the hardest of the three matches. "We didn't play well against Fiji," Pither said. "They were unorthodox and it upset our game. But we scraped through."

In the semi-finals, Australia took sweet revenge for the defeat to the Kiwis in Hong Kong last week by putting on a commanding performance of controlled rugby. Tries from Scott Barton, Tim Atkinson and Rob McDonald put the Aussies 19-0 ahead, while New Zealand's only points came from a consolation try from Jason Tiatia.
In the top half of the draw, South Africa finally ended South Korea's dream run, beating them 40-10 in the semi-finals. The Koreans, who beat Samoa, Canada and Hong Kong on Saturday, thrashed Argentina 26-7 in the quarter-finals but finally ran out of steam against South Africa.

Fiji, still searching for their lost form, picked themselves up after the defeat to Australia and walloped Samoa 31-12 in the Plate semi-final then crushed England 45-14 in the final. For the first time in this Asian leg of this series, the Fijians began to play with the rhythm and confidence of old, with Eparama Navale posing a constant threat in the backs.

In the Bowl, Canada held off a strong challenge from Wales to come out 32-19 victors.

The title victory puts Australia on 82 points in the International Rugby Board standings, two ahead of Fiji and four behind leaders New Zealand.

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