The familiar chants of “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” reverberated around Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium as Australia won their first Cup Final in two years.
Australia defeated a powerful and resilient Samoan side 28-26 in the Cup Final of the Tokyo Sevens to claim Australia’s sixth-ever HSBC Sevens World Series title.
The result is the best finish for the Australians in the 2011/12 HSBC Sevens World Series and their first Cup win since May 2010, when they beat South Africa 19-14 in London on the 2009/10 circuit.
Previously this season, on a run that has been hampered by injuries, the Australians’ best result was a fourth-place finish at the inaugural Gold Coast Sevens – Fever Pitch tournament which kicked off the 2011/12 HSBC Sevens World Series.
Coach Michael O’Connor was elated with the result, having seen his players work hard for little reward in recent tournaments.
“We’ve really come a long way, it’s not easy to win a Cup Final,’ O’Connor said. “They showed a lot of tenacity, courage and commitment against Samoa, it was an extraordinary final and I’m really proud of them.”
Contesting the final with just eight fit players, the Australians hit the field with guts and determination and went into the half-time break up 14-12 after Shannon Walker scored a double in only his second tournament of the Series. Walker’s tries were converted by youngsters Allan Faalavaau and Matt Lucas.
Damon Anderson extended his side’s lead early in the second half, with a conversion added by Lucas, before Australia were forced to weather a Samoan storm as they ran in two tries in quick succession.
Down 26-21 with four minutes left, the Australia remained patient and following a solid build up an outside run by Captain Ed Jenkins leveled the scores, leaving Lucas with a difficult conversion attempt to take the lead.
Kicking from near the sideline, Lucas slotted the shot with nerves of steel and in the process delivered the Australians a two-point lead just seconds before the final siren sounded.
Lucas, competing in only his second tournament with the Australian Sevens team, credited exhaustion with eliminating any butterflies he may have felt before the deciding kick.
“Being so tired probably helped, I had a clear mind and thankfully it went over,” Lucas said. “To win the Cup is something we’ve been striving for, there’s not much better than that.
“Twenty minutes is a long time in Sevens and we just had to maintain our composure. We stuck to it and backed ourselves.”
Qantas Men’s Sevens Captain Ed Jenkins, pictured above with coach Michael O’Connor, was with the side at their last Cup win back in 2010 and said the fresh faces in the squad have continued to impress him.
“It was a great performance from all the boys and some pretty impressive individual performances from the likes of Matt Lucas and Sean McMahon,” Jenkins said.
“That performance was pretty special, considering we only had one reserve player on the bench, that’s pretty special. These young guys are stepping up, they’ve got a few tournaments under their belts and they really played well today.”
The HSBC Sevens World Series will now take a month break from competition before returning for the remaining two tournaments in the 2011/12 season, with Glasgow on 5-6 May and London on 12-13 May.
Cleaning staff use grass-blowers to cleanup after celebrations at the Prince Chichibu Stadium.
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