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South Africa deny 7s men in Games semi

Sun, 31/07/2022, 1:06 pm
Murray Wenzel - AAP
by Murray Wenzel - AAP
The Aussie 7s are London 7s champions after taking out an epic final in London.

Australian coach John Manenti is ruing an opportunity lost by his men's rugby sevens team at the Commonwealth Games.

Beaten 24-12 by South Africa in Sunday's semi-final in Coventry, the rebuilt squad twice had leads in the first half as a shot at a maiden Games gold beckoned.

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But back-to-back infringements meant a costly yellow card for Henry Hutchison and a smothered Corey Toole kick led to the match-turning try after the break which killed their crusade.

Desperate to prove the legitimacy of a program that's endured harsh funding cuts, Australia will now need to beat defending Games champions New Zealand to leave Birmingham with bronze.

The focus will then immediately switch to the final leg of the World Series, where Australia are just two points behind South Africa and able to pip them for a maiden title.

"I'm disappointed; we had enough chances to win that," Manenti, who swapped jobs with women's coach Tim Walsh after the Olympics.

"We're not there yet, getting closer, putting ourselves in the hunt with the big boys where 12 months ago we weren't.

"That's something to be pleased with but we came here for gold and we can't do that now."

Australia have collected two bronze and one silver in the six events since men's sevens was introduced in 1998, Fiji now chasing a maiden gold after breaking five-time champions New Zealand's stranglehold on the Commonwealth crown. 

Reduced to five men thanks to two late yellow cards, New Zealand made three tackles on their line after the siren to push their semi-final into extra time.

But Fijian captain Waisea Nacuqu ran the length of the field to clinch the golden-point victory as Coventry Arena erupted.

Australia's women will play for gold later on Sunday against Fiji, their semi-final defeat of New Zealand adding to the rugby misery of their trans-Tasman neighbours also reeling over the out-of-sorts All Blacks. 

"It's good for sevens, different people winning," Manenti said.

"They've showed what a good team they are and new winners in both men's and women's (with Australia to play Fiji).

"It's good for the sport and people tend to follow Fiji around the world if they don't have a home team playing."

Wallabies recruit Samu Kerevi (knee) was again a no-show after injuring himself in Saturday's pool action against Kenya and missing Australia's quarter-final win.

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