Australia 7s back to their best
February 13, 2005

The Australian Sevens have topped Pool C of the USA Sevens in Los Angeles today, after wins over hosts USA, Canada and an emphatic 26-0 victory over heavy hitters South Africa on Day One of the tournament.

It is the first time Australia has finished undefeated in the Pool matches of an IRB Sevens tournament since the 2003 Brisbane Sevens when Lote Tuqiri and Chris Latham were in the team.

Australia will now face France in the Quarter Finals tomorrow morning (Sydney time). A win in that match would put them in the Semi Finals against defending IRB Sevens Champions New Zealand or Fiji.

Coach Bill Millard said Australia's new selection philosophy of sticking with a core group of up-and-coming young club Rugby players was now paying dividends.

"I have been coaching this group of players since September last year, and every week since then they have got better and better.

"We set ourselves the goal of improving with every tournament, and that is what is happening.

"Today's results have come after of a lot of hard work in Dubai, George, Darwin and Wellington over the past two months.

"We have now set our goal on making the Semi Finals tomorrow. It won't be an easy match against France tomorrow, but needless to say, the boys will be fired up for it.

Australia were spurred on by a small but vocal contingent of Australian expats and travelers in the 15,000 strong crowd.

They faced a difficult first-up match against the home team who were pumped up by a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner which helped them match Australia in the first half and go to the break at 5-all. However two tries to Nick Reily and another to Matt Hodgson in the second half saw Australia kick home to a 24-5 victory.

Their second match against Canada was even tighter. Although Australia enjoyed a 14-5 lead at halftime, Canada came back with a try to make it 14-10, and even had the chance to snatch a last-minute victory had it not been for a try-saving tackle by captain Tim Clark.

Their last match against South Africa was a replay of their Pool match in Wellington last weekend where South Africa escaped with the narrowest of victories.

Shawn Mackay was first on the board with a try in the corner after one and a half minutes. Clark narrowly missed the sideline conversion, but minutes later he burst through a gap on the halfway line and put the supporting Kacey Mitchell in the clear to score. Clark converted for a 12-0 lead. South Africa were applying plenty of pressure, but a sensational tackle by Matt Hodgson saved a certain try and lifted Australia up another gear.

Try-scoring phenomenon Nick Reily replaced Ant Sauer at halftime and took just a minute to score in the second half, with Clark's conversion taking the score out to 19-0, and South Africa were on the ropes. Luke Inman, whose outstanding work at the restarts provided Australia with quality possession throughout the day, put the last nail in South Africa's coffin by scoring with 90 seconds left on the clock.

"The game against South Africa was almost the perfect game of Sevens," Millard said.

"Everything we did just stuck. The game plan was played perfectly. Every player made a big impact in attack, and our desperation in defence was inspirational.

AUSTRALIA 24 [Nick Reily 2, Ant Sauer, Matt Hodgson tries; James Morgan 2 cons] defeated USA 5

AUSTRALIA 14 [Tim Clark, Nick Reily tries; James Morgan 2 cons] defeated CANADA 10

AUSTRALIA 26 [Shawn Mackay, Kacey Mitchell, Nick Reily, Luke Inman tries; Tim Clark 2 cons, James Morgan con] defeated SOUTH AFRICA 0

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