Sevens boys make Mick proud in farewell
May 12, 2014
Australia were overpowered by New Zealand in the second half of the final © Getty Images
Australia's injury-hit sevens tyros did their best to send long-time coach Michael O'Connor out in style before a dream swansong dissolved with an All Blacks onslaught in London.
A fitting farewell to dual international O'Connor was well and truly in the offing after his young underdogs ran in three quick tries for a 21-0 lead in the World Series event final at Twickenham on Monday morning (AEST). But the class and experience of the world's best team came to the fore as New Zealand drew level at 21-21 at halftime and went on with the job with five tries in the second half to win 52-33.
Missing seven of his best players, the highly-respected O'Connor still finished his final game in charge extremely pleased with his troops.
"They've done me and their country proud," he said. "I couldn't have asked for much more. New Zealand were just too good, but some of the players are just babies and I do believe they can go to the next level. We have got good depth. In the next couple of years, Australia can get up there."
O'Connor's sixth and final season coaching Australia ended with a creditable fifth place finish overall, as New Zealand retained their crown ahead of South Africa, Fiji and England.
The former Wallabies centre and league superboot stepped down from his post following the Australian Rugby Union's (ARU) move to centralise the team in Sydney heading towards the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Despite a high turnover of players each year, O'Connor has kept his team up near the leading sevens nations in the World Series. The high-scoring defeat in the Twickenham decider was the seventh final Australia made on his watch, which included two tournament titles in London 2010 and Tokyo 2012.
O'Connor has told the ARU he will stay on for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games if required but it appears a new foreign coach will be appointed in the next fortnight. ARU official Andrew Fagan interviewed candidates in Europe this month with Kenya coach Mike Friday and Welshman Geraint John, who has lifted Canada to sixth in the rankings, believed to be among the major contenders. A further improvement in the 2014-2015 World Series is crucial as the top four ranked sides will automatically qualify for the Rio Games.