The past month has seen the Qantas Men’s Sevens Squad front some stiff competition in Dubai and South Africa.
In the lead up to the second stop of the IRB World Series we had a team of experienced players with Luke Morahan, Lewis Holland, Sean McMahon and Greg Jeloudev all selected to play.
James Stannard came back into the side after Cameron Clark was ruled out due to injury and his experience in the sevens jersey proved handy as we tried to cope with the pressure teams were putting on us.
We came out of the blocks slower than expected with a shock 21-17 loss to Scotland in our opening match after failing to hold on to our 17-7 lead at half time.
After restoring some confidence with a 45-0 win against Spain we needed to top Wales in our final match to qualify for the Cup Quarter Finals the next day but fell short by five points.
The boys all shrugged off day one and came out firing for the Bowl with wins over USA (47-7), Samoa (19-14) and Portugal (17-12) to come away with the decider.
We trialled a few new combinations in Dubai and apart from day one, our coach Michael O’Connor and the rest of the squad were confident we could turn things around in South Africa.
It was a truly unique experience travelling to Port Elizabeth during a time of great mourning for the loss of Nelson Mandela and we felt the significance of it all when we took to the field for a moment of silence, standing next to the 15 other teams.
With emotions running as high as our heart rates at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, the Cup trophy was fittingly thrown South Africa’s way after a spirited and well-deserved 17-14 win over New Zealand in the final.
We pulled a tough card on day one, facing Dubai Sevens Champions Fiji in front of a packed out Port Elizabeth Crowd and were left 26-5 down at the buzzer.
We were denied a first game win but got one back on Scotland after a disappointing loss in Dubai with a 31-19 triumph off the back of some try scoring brilliance from Shannon Walker, Luke Morahan and Tom Lucas.
After gaining momentum with a win over Zimbabwe we were up against England but unfortunately couldn’t mirror Australia’s Ashes Series success, falling short 28-19 in the Bowl final.
The boys are very much looking forward to the USA, World Series Stop in January. The break will give us a chance to rejuvenate and take care of a few niggling injuries in the team before we hedge our bets for a winning card in Las Vegas next month.
2013 has been a memorable year for everyone involved in Australian Sevens, a time which has seen considerable growth in the sport and progress for the team leading into the Commonwealth Games next year and Rio in 2016.