‘Can’t wait until they write about this’
The words captain Nick Malouf uttered at half-time of their semi-final against France were prophetic as Australia claimed their first title in Hong Kong since 1988, defeating Fiji 20-17 in a thrilling final.
Not since the days of Michael Lynagh, David Campese and Tim Gavin have the Australians last lifted the title at the historic venue as player of the match Maurice Longbottom and Henry Hutchison guided the self-dubbed ‘misfits’ back from a 12-0 deficit against the World Cup champions.
Nathan Lawson proved the hero, finishing off a turnover caused by a crunching Longbottom tackle, scoring the game-winner in the final seconds.
“I’m struggling to put this into words,” captain Nick Malouf said after the match.
“The fact we’ve been able to do it, I can’t help but keep looking over (at the group), there’s so many happy faces and I’m so proud of our group.
“We did so well last year and to back it up on the first one and win Hong Kong, it’s blown my mind.”
Australia ran the gauntlet to make the final, with the so-called 'misfits' greeting adversity as an old friend, welcoming it gladly.
The day started as the world champions found themselves down 14-points to Ireland after a pair of yellow cards.
As coach John Manenti put at half-time: ‘We’ve got ourselves in a f****** situation. We’ll find a way (out).' Three quick tries later and the Australians were in the semi-finals with a 26-19 victory.
This was backed up by a tense encounter with France, going into extra time locked at 7-all in a brutal encounter that saw them reduced to five men at one stage.
James Turner provided the spark needed, injuring himself in the process of making a break just after play had re-started, drawing the penalty to allow Maurice Longbottom to slot the kick to book their place alongside Fiji.
The World Cup champions started strong as Fiji scored twice in the first four minutes to take a 12-0 lead via Josua Vakurunabili and Olympic gold medalist Waisea Nacuqu.
Fiji looked set to add to their 36-game winning streak in Hong Kong before the Australians fired back.
Longbottom provided the spark John Manenti's side desperately needed, firing a long ball to Henry Hutchison to reduce the margin to 12-5 at the break.
Hutchison then turned provider, throwing the offload to put Tim Clements over before Nacuqu added his second to push the margin out to a converted try.
A yellow card to Joseva Talacolo for a high tackle gave Australia the opening they needed, with the Longbottom-Hutchison connection striking again, this time via a cross kick, setting up a grandstand finish
With Fiji in possession as time ran out, Longbottom forced the mistake, allowing Stu Dunbar to find Nathan Lawson in the corner for the game-winner.
“It’s pretty surreal. In my six years of Sevens I’ve never got this (player of the final) award so to finally tick this off, I’m over the moon,” Longbottom said.
“I can’t give my boys enough credit, the run into the final wasn’t the best, we got down to five in the game, we just dug in for each other.”