Australia has won the men’s rugby sevens world series for the first time, to match the triumph of the women’s team earlier this year.
The Aussies beat Samoa 21-7 in the third place play off in Los Angeles with stars Corey Toole, Henry Paterson and Dietrich Roache crossing for tries in a frantic contest.
Samoa led early before Toole crossed and there was a big piece of luck for Paterson’s try. After leading 14-7 at the break the Aussies raced further ahead through Roache, who brought up 343 points in the series, 93 more than any other player.
The Aussies went into the game knowing they needed to win or it would open the door for South Africa or Fiji to claim the title.
Their only tournament win came in the last leg in London before the Commonwealth Games, but Australia’s five podium finishes from eight events was enough to slot them into second, just two points behind South Africa ahead of the final leg.
“This medal is a reflection of the consistency the boys have shown. A lot of boys contributed and it’s been a pretty amazing run,” said coach John Manenti.
“It’s very special to share it and obviously Chucky [women’s coach Tim Walsh] and I were involved in both programs so it’s certainly nice to have the double.”
A horror second-half in a 29-10 loss to Fiji left Australia needing victory in their final game.
After series leaders South Africa bombed out in the group stage, Manenti’s side could have wrapped up a historic world title with passage to Monday’s final.
Australia had dragged themselves back to trail 12-10 at halftime, but a loose Nick Malouf pass, lost restart, another turnover in open play and then two late decisions to kick the ball away allowed Fiji to sail away.
Australia’s best previous finish in the series that began in 1999 was a runner-up placing back in 2000-01 and their current campaign comes on the back of a program restructure that reduced them to just six fully-contracted players to begin the season.
Sevens commentator Rikki Swannell described the Aussie men as “an absolute bunch of misfits who have worked so hard for each other. So connected, some plucked from club rugby throughout Australia and now champions on the world stage.”
‘Head on the wrong side’
Marika Koroibete’s epic try saving tackle has divided the rugby watching world. While Australian fans marvelled at the ferocity of Koroibete’s hit, Springboks fans were blowing up, complaining he failed to wrap his arms and should have been yellow carded.
Former Wales captain Sam Warburton, noticed something else. The position Koroibete got into when making the tackle on Makazole Mapimpi.
“Whatever anyone thinks, head on the wrong side…again,” he said on social media. “This happens almost every game.
“Astonished this still hasn’t been coached out of players. Plenty of time to assess tackle.
“Protect the head? Then we need to tackle correctly.”
The tackle aside, Koroibete was incredible against the Boks.
While his Wallabies teammates describe him as a “freak” and his coach says he’s never seen a winger like him, Koroibete says he’s just repaying Australia for all it has given his family.
The Australians clinched a 25-17 victory over South Africa at Adelaide Oval on Saturday to keep alive their chances of winning the Rugby Championship.
Man of the match Koroibete was integral, the Fijian flyer mobbed by his Wallabies teammates after pulling off a massive hit that stopped a certain Springboks try.
He then scored himself early in the second half to help the home side to the rousing win.
With fellow winger Tom Wright in the sin bin, the Australians were under heavy fire late in the first half and South Africa spread the ball wide to Makazole Mapimpi.
As he charged to the line Koroibete sprinted 40 metres from his own wing and smashed Mapimpi, who spilt the ball as he flew through the air.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said the former NRL star, who has now played 48 Tests, always gave his all to the team.
“He’s incredible and what you see on Saturdays is what you see every day at training – he is just full on,” Rennie said.
“If we kick a ball, he is at full pace chasing, he is concrete when he hits, his work ethic is phenomenal, I haven’t seen another winger like it.
“He’s not a big man but powerful and and he’s all over the park. You have a look at his numbers, they’re outrageous.”
Wallabies five-eighth Noah Lolesio said he was happy that he didn’t have to try and stop Koroibete.
“He’s a freak,” Lolesio said.
“I’m just happy that I’m one of his teammates, not opposing him … I reckon he’s the best winger in the world.”
Koroibete grew up on a remote family farm in Fiji and moved to Australia to play league in 2011.
He switched to rugby in 2017 and three years later won the John Eales Medal as Australia’s best player.
Shifting his career to Japan this year, Koroibete had to rely on being one of three overseas player picks, which he described as a privilege.
And Koroibete said he wanted to repay his adopted country.
“As a kid growing up in Fiji and come over to Australia, it’s given a lot to me and my family,” he said.
“Just to give back to the country after what it’s done for me and my family. It’s for my teammates and the coaching staff.”
While Koroibete’s tackle was the talk of Adelaide, he said he was just doing his job.
“The tackle had to be made – we got a man in the bin and I have to cover his side and make that cover (tackle).
“I was just running and I knew he wasn’t going to step he was going to go for the corner so I put my head there and hoped for the best.
“We spoke this week about effort and working for each other. The forwards do their job, ruck, mauling and those sort of things and backs we have to do our job.”
Legends clash over All Blacks
Jeff Wilson and John Kirwan have had a heated debate in the aftermath of the All Blacks’ reverse to the Pumas.
Wilson felt the All Blacks were in control of the game in the first half, but Kirwan wouldn’t cop it.
“First half we were in control of that Test match, the only opportunities that they were getting to score points were from our ill-discipline,” said Wilson.
“We weren’t in control. We were never in control of the scoreboard, countered Kirwan. “You’ve got to be 15 points ahead of any side to be in control now.”
Wilson responded: “They weren’t threatening – never looked like scoring tries against the All Blacks.”
That fired up Kirwan some more … “I don’t care. They were outstanding. They were outstanding at the breakdown. And they put us under pressure.”
“They played no rugby,” Wilson said. “Their try was pure and simply about a kickoff error and then two missed tackles. It wasn’t like it was 12 phases and then they score.”
Wilson added that the All Blacks’ execution down the stretch was not good enough.
“When the game is on the line in the last 20 minutes. We get frantic, we lose our patience, we lose our accuracy and we’re trying to win with one play.”
Pressure back on Foster
Ian Foster is back in the cross hairs after the shocking loss to Argentina.
Less than two weeks after he was given the green light to continue through to the World Cup, the mood has shifted back to gloom
New Zealand Herald columnist Gregor Paul said a defeat in the second match against Argentina would mean Foster must go.
“One more loss for the All Blacks this week and Hamilton has to be the end of the line for head coach Ian Foster and many in his wider management team,” he wrote on Monday.
“One more loss and Hamilton, for the sake of a legacy 120 years in the making, has to be the terminus.
“A victory for the All Blacks this week won’t be enough to provide any categoric assurances about corners having been turned and new beginnings. That mistake of buying into the All Blacks’ rejuvenation was made last week.
“One win won’t provide security or certainty about where this All Blacks side is going. One win won’t make a dent in the statistics which say the All Blacks have a 25 per cent win rate from their last eight tests.
“One win will bump them to a 33 per cent success ratio – a number that would have any coach of any top international side in serious job security strife.
“But Foster is not coach of any international team. He’s the coach of the All Blacks, the most vaunted and precious rugby brand on the planet.”
Writing in the same paper, Phil Gifford disagreed with Paul’s timeline.
“The media and online hounds will be unleashed this week,” he wrote, but said it would be pointless.
“During the week Stewart Mitchell, the chairman of the New Zealand Rugby board, swore the board had voted unanimously to keep Foster as All Blacks coach. For board members to now change their minds about supporting him would require a swallowing of pride never seen before in the sport in this country.
“If there’s to be any change there seem to be only two possible windows, either after the Bledisloe Cup test in Auckland on September 24, or after the end-of-year northern tour.”