Sydney University Football Club’s Australian Sevens representatives Ed Jenkins and Greg Jeloudev still have Olympic Games aspirations despite Australia’s fifth-placed finish in the Las Vegas leg of the Sevens World Series.
The top four nations in the nine-round World Series, along with the Olympic Games host nation, gain automatic entry to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, where Sevens rugby will be played for the first time.
Australia’s fifth-place finish at the Las Vegas tournament over the weekend kept them in fourth place on the overall standings with four rounds to be played: Hong Kong on March 27-29, Japan on April 4-5, Scotland on May 9-10, and England on May 16-17.
South Africa head the World Series standings on 93 points, with New Zealand (88), Fiji (86) and Australia (71) making up the top four. England (68) and Argentina (54) are still in top-four contention.
Australia defeated Brazil 45-0, France 31-14 and Scotland 40-14 to head Pool D in Las Vegas, but went down 28-7 to New Zealand in their quarter-final. They then accounted for Canada 17-0 in the Plate semi-final and England 21-14 in the Plate final.
Coach Geraint John said the Plate final win was crucial as it extended Australia’s advantage over England in the overall standings.
“After the disappointment against New Zealand in the Cup quarter-finals, I thought we played very well today,” he said. “Sometimes you play six games and lose just the one and most weekends you find yourselves in the Cup semis or finals.
“To beat a side of England’s calibre – a team competing with us for one of those top four spots – will gives us good confidence and a lot to take from the weekend.
“The likes of Greg Jeloudev, Sammy Myers and Allan Fa’alava’au played a few more minutes today and their performances are a testament to the depth we have in the squad at the moment.”
In the Plate Final against England, a near-perfect first half against quality opposition saw the Aussies race into a 21-point lead in the first five minutes.
Skipper Ed Jenkins fended off the challenges of two English defenders to power over early on. A neat offload from the lively Allan Fa’alava’au set Lewis Holland free to touch down and extend the advantage. After another patient period of play, Con Foley dissected a gap in the opposition defence to score under the posts. Charlie Hayter finished off a fine English move just before the break and Tom Mitchell scored early in the second half to reduce the arrears but Australia did enough to hold and claim the win (21-14).
Fiji won their second tournament of the season after defeating New Zealand in the Cup Final in Las Vegas, while South Africa proved too strong for hosts USA in the play-off between the third and fourth-placed teams.
The sixth leg of the Sevens World Series will be played in Hong Kong, with skipper Jenkins and Jeloudev certain to retain their placed in the Australian squad.