Canada's Charity Williams (left) tackles Australia's Emilee Cherry during their semi-final match  in Sydney
Canada's Charity Williams (left) tackles Australia's Emilee Cherry during their semi-final match in Sydney DAVID MOIR

Aussie women 'gutted' after Sydney Sevens loss

RUGBY SEVENS:Australia felt the pressure of post-Rio hype at the Sydney Sevens but learning to handle that expectation will be required to stay on top of the world, said coach Tim Walsh.

The Australian women's team came into Sydney as favourites both on and off the pitch, courtesy of their historic gold medal win at the Olympics last year.

The golden girls were plastered on billboards and promotional material for the Sydney Sevens but after scratchy form throughout the tournament, the headline actors were knocked out of contention in the semi-finals by Canada.

Trailing 12-7 at halftime, Australia were unable to find a winning try in the second half due to a glut of coughed-up ball in attack.

With USA upsetting New Zealand in the other semi-final, Australia played for bronze against their old enemy but fatigued and dispirited, the hosts crashed to a 19-0 defeat.

Canada beat their neighbours in the final to win the title.

It was a "devastating" result for the Australian side, who'd stressed for weeks the importance of playing well in front of a horde of inspired young girls in the sold-out Allianz Stadium crowd.

 

New Zealand's Michaela Blyde, chased by Australia's Ellia Green, runs nearly the entire length of the field to score the first try of the  Bronze Medal match
New Zealand's Michaela Blyde, chased by Australia's Ellia Green, runs nearly the entire length of the field to score the first try of the Bronze Medal match DAVID MOIR

"We are gutted. We gave too many opportunities to Canada and you can't give turnovers like that to a quality team. You get punished," co-captain Shannon Parry said.

"There was some (pressure) there. You are playing on home soil and you want to put out a good performance. But that's not an excuse for that result out there." Parry's co-captain Sharni Williams said last week the pressure made the Sydney Sevens feel bigger than the Olympic final, however, and Walsh said that hype and the added attention had taken its toll on his team.

"It was a cross between getting really excited and deflecting all those distractions, and that probably got to us a little bit," Walsh said.

"A girl like Charlotte Caslick is barely 21, and the expectation on her going into this tournament was ridiculous. It is something she will have to take on her shoulders, as they all will as gold medallists.

"There were parts of our game that were to form and other parts that weren't. We need to be consistent to be consistently at the top and win these championships.

"They're young girls but they're elite athletes, and the reality is that is what you are going to have to do to keep at the top, to perform under incredible pressure."

After successfully handling the pressure of several tight games in their pool round on Friday, and dispatching the physical Fijian side in the quarter-finals, Australia came up against Canada in the semi-finals.

 

Canadian players celebrate their win over United States in the women's final
Canadian players celebrate their win over United States in the women's final Rick Rycroft

The USA had just upset the Kiwis and opened up the door for Australia to claim their inaugural home tournament.

In the past, even a 75% effort would be enough for Australia's skill to overwhelm both Canada and USA.

But Canada defended grimly, took both of their two chances to score and then breathed sighs of relief each time Australia played too laterally and dropped the ball.

"It's obviously devastating," Walsh said.

"It was a fantastic atmosphere and we did everything we could to go out there and perform. They gave it everything but it wasn't good enough. We made some pretty crucial errors and we got punished for it.

"We haven't really played well. We had a good game against Ireland and had glimpses of what we are good at, but that's not enough in a world series (tournament). The girls are under immense pressure coming into this tournament and I think they can take some growth out of it, but we were simply not good enough today."

After losing to New Zealand a few hours later, Williams said: "​We just didn't really show up for the second day. We can play so much better than that but we didn't come up and show that. It was pretty tough in front of our family and friends but we will cop that, and own that and go back and re-group​."

Walsh said the focus now turns to the Las Vegas sevens, where Australia will continue in their defence of the World Series crown. After Sydney they sit in second in the standings behind New Zealand.

"We have another round in Las Vegas at the end of the month. It's not the end of the world. It's a game we've lost and that will happen," Walsh said.

"But we need to build on that and make sure we are continuing forward."

News Corp Australia


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