Michael Cheika knows the job is only half done as Joe Schmidt rues 'skinny margins'

Alex Broun 10/06/2018
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David Pocock (kneeling) scored the winning try in the 70th minute

When Michael Cheika first took over the reins of the Wallabies back in October 2014 he spoke of the team playing a brand of rugby that would make Australians proud.

And over the last few years there have been matches that have made local rugby fans hearts’ swell with pride – the 23-18 defeat of the All Blacks in Brisbane last year and the 33-13 dismantling of England at Twickenham on the Man of Gold’s run to the Rugby World Cup Final in 2015, just to name a couple.

But there are very few that have lifted Australian sports fans’ spirits as much as the extraordinary 18-9 victory over Ireland in Brisbane last weekend in the opening match of the Mitsubishi Estate series.

To put the win in perspective this was an Australian team coming off just six days preparation, with three new caps in the 23, facing up to World No2 Ireland, the current Six Nations Grand Slam champions, who were on a 12-game winning streak.

Often Cheika’s comments on playing an Australian style have been interpreted as being in the mold of Mark Ella and David Campese ball-in-hand magic.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika

But even more than the razzle-dazzle what the Australian public wants to see, is 15 players in gold jerseys who will tackle like their lives depend on it.

And that’s what the Wallabies gave in bucket-fulls in Brisbane. There were huge hits right from the kick off in the team’s most committed defensive performance in recent memory.

One hit from Marika Koroibete on Conor Murray was eye-popping as was another from Michael Hooper on Joey Carbery, just to name a few.

This was a victory built on defence, set-piece and when the opportunity arose, scintillating backline play.

In nearly every facet of the game, except lineouts, Australia were the better team.

With the platform provided by Australia’s pack and Will Genia’s speedy service Bernard Foley was able to unleash his runners Dane Haylett-Petty, Koroibete, Samu Kerevi and of course the peerless Israel Folau.

The NSW No15’s stunning aerial skills may in the end have been the difference between the two sides.

Kurtley Beale was also breathtaking in an attacking (and defensive) display that was near his very best.

There was a lot of talk before the match about how young Munster-bound fly-half Carbery would handle the pressure of starting in such a big Test but to his credit he held up well, showing he belongs at this level.

But as the game wore on the Wallabies No10 Bernard Foley stamped his own authority in his kicking and distribution.

Even when Ireland’s first choice No10 Johnny Sexton came into the game Foley continued to dominate.

Then in the tight five, Australia’s very own fairy-tale, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, the garbo who rose to become a Wallaby, starting his first Test at hooker.

He can look back at his Test debut with distinction and with more experience under his belt, and some more accurate line out throws, could become a key part of Cheika’s side for years to come.

The Australian scrum, expected to be dominated by the fearsome Ireland pack, stood up much better than expected and Adam Coleman was a strong presence for Australia, as was James Ryan for Ireland.

In the loose forwards this was one of the best back row battles ever seen on Australian soil.

David Pocock stood tall all game, in his first Test in 18 months, and put in his best performances in a gold jersey since the 2015 Rugby World Cup. He was a constant menace at the ruck making the Ireland pack work harder and harder to retain possession – and he took his match sealing try superbly.

He was ably assisted by Michael Hooper and Caleb Timu with new Brumbies signing Peter Samu also making an impression with his brief cameo.

As Cheika said afterwards, “Looking at previous games, Ireland, particularly in the forward pack, have outworked other teams.”

“I felt like we needed to win the ‘hard work’ battle just to have a foothold in the game and then see what our backs could from there.”

And that is exactly how the game unfolded. But what Cheika would have hammered into the Wallabies heads as soon as they left the field was the job is only half done.

The triumph in Brisbane will mean nothing unless the Men of Gold claim the series.

“The big thing for us has been consistency,” he said. “We have had real highs over the last couple of years and we’ve got to stay consistent over the rest of the series.

“It’s about mindset every week. We’ve got to have that winner’s mindset all the time.”

As for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt he will be disappointed his side did not claim their first win in Australia for 39 years, though admitting the Wallabies were “incredibly physical.”

“We got in behind them a couple of times and probably over-kicked the ball,” he admitted after the game. “We probably didn’t hold onto the ball as well as we would have liked.

“[David] Pocock obviously put a lot of pressure on and he always makes a big difference to a team. Apart from that, I don’t think there was too much between the teams.”

“We’ll just have to dust ourselves off… and get the margins to fall our way, albeit they were pretty skinny today.”

The Wallabies will be desperate to clinch the series in Melbourne this Saturday while Ireland will be just as desperate to keep it alive another week till Sydney.

It all adds up to another high quality rugby test played at heart-stopping intensity.

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World Rugby announces new opening round for HSBC Women’s Sevens Series 2018-19

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Infinity Park in Glendale the venue for the new leg of the HSBC Womens Seven's Series. The rugby field is on the right.

World Rugby has announced USA Rugby will host the opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series next season in Glendale, Colorado

The announcement of this new addition brings the number of rounds on the women’s series to six, guaranteeing more competitive playing opportunities for series participants on their route to qualification for the 2020 Olympics.

The new HSBC USA Women’s Sevens round kicks off on 20-21 October, followed by existing rounds Dubai, Sydney, Kitakyushu, Langford and Paris.

The tournament will be held at Infinity Park, the state-of-the-art 4,000 seat stadium in the heart of Glendale, Colorado’s rugby epicenter and premier setting for rugby in the USA.

Denver playing against Ohio at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado - the venue for the new leg of the Women's World Series.

Denver playing against Ohio at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado – the venue for the new leg of the Women’s World Series.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont today said, “We are delighted to be expanding the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series next season, creating and delivering more high-performance quality competitions for participating teams, which is a key strand of the wider Women’s Plan 2017-25.

“Rugby sevens has played an important role in the growth and development of the women’s game. The outstanding success of the women’s sevens competition at Rio 2016, delivered a huge boost globally in terms of participation, profile and engagement.

“In recent times we have seen the world series continue to win new fans and inspire players worldwide with its mix of impressive skill, high-octane rugby and exciting atmosphere.”

Naya Tapper in action for the USA Women's Sevens team.

Naya Tapper in action for the USA Women’s Sevens team.

“We are thrilled to have a HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series stop return to the United States next season,” said USA Rugby General Manager of Women’s High Performance, Emilie Bydwell.

“With the considerable growth of women’s rugby, having a home tournament provides an access point for the community with our Women’s Eagles Sevens.

“Glendale is an incredible venue and the opportunity to kick off an Olympic Qualification Season at home in front of our athletes’ family, friends and fans is amazing.

“Subsequently, followed up by the Women’s Eagles home match against the Black Ferns just two weeks later, demonstrates commitment to driving the Women’s game forward in this country.”

Otherwise known as RugbyTown, Infinity Park is nestled within a community that has seen the rise of rugby first-hand.

With year-round events hosted across club, college and professional programs, including all home games for the Glendale Raptors of the newly formed Major League Rugby, and Glendale Merlins of the Women’s Premier League, the stadium encapsulates the increasing excitement for the sport, making it a prime location to further catapult the growth of the women’s game.

Glendale Mayor, Mike Dunafon, added, ““We are honored to have been chosen as the venue to host the HSBC USA Women’s Sevens tournament; and look forward to welcoming the athletes, families, and fans to RugbyTown USA.”

2018 is set to be an exciting year for rugby sevens with the Rugby World Cup Sevens taking place in San Francisco 20-22 July, providing further opportunity to inspire and engage new participants and fans in the USA and around the world.

The tournament promises to be a spectacular event, with three days of thrilling action in the iconic AT&T Park.

A full schedule for the upcoming HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2019 will be announced following the conclusion of the 2018 series which comes to an exciting climax this weekend, with the final round of both the women’s and men’s series taking place in Paris.

Tickets to the Glendale event will also soon be released.

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Emilee Cherry scores last minute winner as Australia claim second Sevens World Series crown

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Emilee Cherry goes over for the winning try against France that won Australia the World Series.

The Australian Women’s Sevens side will be crowned overall series champions of the HSBC Sevens World Series after ensuring a place in the Final in Paris on Saturday night.

The side will meet New Zealand in the tournament decider but can’t be beaten on the overall ladder, leading their Trans-Tasman rivals by four points heading into the final leg of the Series.

Australia overcame Fiji in a tough Quarter Final, 22-19 before facing off against tournament hosts France in the Semi Final. In another tight contest, Australia was able to emerge victorious, 21-17. Both times Australia came from behind to secure victory, with tries to Emilee Cherry proving to be the winning difference.

The Series victory is the second time Australia has been crowned overall Champions, with the Aussie 7s winning the HSBC 2015-2016 World Series.

Australian Women’s Sevens co-captain, Shannon Parry said: “It was a hard-fought match there, sorry to everyone at home for putting you on the edge of your couches.”

“It’s 5:30am at home but we did it for all our squad members back home and for everyone that’s been on this journey with us this year.

“There was a lot of pressure coming into that match, we just go through in a nail-biter against Fiji and then to win it with the last play was a fantastic effort from the girls.

“I guess it’s a short-lived celebration for us tonight because we want to take away that title tomorrow,” Parry said.

Australia will play New Zealand in the Cup Final of the HSBC Paris Sevens at 19.30 (UAE time) on Sunday 10 June.

MATCH REPORTS

Charlotte Caslick in action against Fiji

Charlotte Caslick in action against Fiji

Australia 22 defeated Fiji 19

Australia had a nervous start to the Quarter Final with Charlotte Caslick sent to the sidelines for two minutes for a high tackle.  The Fijians capitalising on the extra woman advantage with Miriama Naiobasali scoring in the corner after a huge amount of pressure and possession.  Shannon Parry entered the fray having an immediate impact off the pine, making a huge break up the middle before showing composure to go to ground allowing Caslick to get across the white line in the following phase to put scores level.  As the clock wound down to half time the Aussies struggled to get their hands on the ball, Fiji making their possession count again, Pricilla Sauvavi Siata with her first try of the day to have her side leading by seven at the break.

The Aussies knew they had to score first in the second half and it was none other than Emilee Cherry who stepped up, drawing a defender to allow Caslick to sprint into space who laid on a perfect pass for speedster Dom Du Toit to do the rest.  Just as the Australians thought they were beginning to get ascendency, Fiji put their foot on the accelerator, Merewai Cumu taking advantage of a missed line out to break through a tackle and score under the posts. Australia would have to score twice in the final two minutes to keep their title hopes alive. Instead of being overawed by the situation, Caslick again proved her class, throwing a huge cut out ball to Du Toit who pinned her ears back and out sprinted Fiji’s cover defence to make it a two-point ball game with one play remaining. Australia regathered possession off the kick-off and began to build pressure with multiple phases, eventually finding the space in the defence they were desperate for, Emilee Cherry the one to cross giving her side the lead in what was a remarkable display of calmness under immense pressure.

Australia 21 defeated France 17

Australia knew a win over France would hand them their second ever HSBC Women’s Sevens World Series and the occasion didn’t get the better of them, holding their composure as France started the match with all the possession.  Australia was able to secure possession after a French error and they made no mistake from the resulting scrum, Dom Du Toit with first points as she continued her superb try-scoring form in the tournament. Australia went over again moments later when Emilee Cherry found herself unmarked on the sideline. The French looked to get back just before the break, but a forward pass halted their attack, leaving the score 14-0 at the break.

The French side came firing out of the blocks in the second stanza. Their skipper Fanny Horta bashing her way to the try line after her teammate produced a textbook turnover at the breakdown in the previous phase. The home side had two almost immediately after, this time it was Majone Mayans using quick feet to step around the Australians to put her side back within two points with four minutes remaining in the match.  Mayans was hit high by Evania Pelite in the process of scoring, the referee showing Pelite a yellow card for the infringement, leaving the Aussies to defend with just six.  It looked as though heartbreak was on the horizon for the Australians when the French got their third and went ahead through Chloe Pelle. With the French in possession with 30 seconds remaining on the clock Emma Tonegato put her body on the line earning a penalty at the breakdown. The Olympic gold medallist then took off with a quick tap, drawing a defender before linking up with a flying Dom Du Toit who sensed Emilee Cherry on her inside and gave a sensational pass to the Aussie centre who ran 40-metres to score the matchwinner after the bell.  The final score Australia 21, France 17.

Paris Sevens day two results

Australian Women’s Sevens

Cup Quarter Final: Australia 22-19 Fiji

Cup Semi Final: Australia 21-17 France

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