Elwood counts cost of crucial missed kick
ONE week after tasting glory in the Five Nations Championship, Eric Elwood felt the agony of defeat in an Ireland jersey for the first time.
The affable fly-half, who kicked Ireland to victory over England last week in Dublin, missed the crucial conversion that eventually saw Ireland fall to Australia in a heart-stopping quarter-final yesterday.
Elwood's attempt, about 10 metres off centre, was badly sliced and drifted to the right of the posts leaving the scores level at 12-12.
And it was Australia who won the run of the ball in sudden-death extra-time with Matt Burke scoring the winning try as the Wallabies won in a fashion every bit as dramatic as their 15-a-side win over the Irish in the 1991 World Cup quarter-finals.
Elwood said: ''I hit it all wrong and couldn't get the direction right.
''It was very disappointing as we came very close to winning the match and I thought we were unlucky.
''But it's been a great tournament and a good atmosphere for us. We didn't have any preparations and now we are looking forward to the Sevens World Cup.'' Australia had apparently under-estimated the Irish side, omitting Tim Horan and Jason Little.
But Horan came on as a replacement at the start of extra time.
''It's really up to the other team which players they want to use. But I don't think they would have left out Little and Horan if they were playing against the Fijians.'' The Welsh President's Seven were also knocked out in the quarter-finals, losing 33-7 to Fiji despite putting on an entertaining display for the crowd.
Coach Alan Davies said the Hongkong event served an important purpose in helping the side prepare for the World Cup.
''We gave away some silly tries and lost a lot of possession,'' he said. ''But you never can tell if better preparation would have made a big difference.
''Because of our league structure in Wales we don't have time to play sevens tournaments. New Zealand have many sevens events to prepare.'' Although the squad comprised seven full internationals, it was not considered a national side.
But Davies is unsure whether Wales will return to Hongkong next year with a national side.
''It's really up to the Welsh Rugby Football Union. Hopefully we can, but it depends on our domestic league.
''I'd like to see it as this is the best sevens tournament in the world.'' Wales were the first Home Union to send a national side to the Hongkong Sevens, in 1990, when they shocked Australia in the quarter-finals.
They have since been followed by Scotland in 1991 and this year by Ireland.
One country who are definitely returning are debutants South Africa, who finally ended their absence from Hongkong after they were allowed back into international sports following the abolition of apartheid.
Skipper Andre Joubert, the first Springbok to play in Hongkong - for the Barbarians last year - said the players were very impressed with the tournament.
''We thoroughly enjoyed it,'' said Joubert, whose side lost to New Zealand in the quarter-finals.
''I think we can be happy with our performances. We came back from 10-0 down against New Zealand to lead at one stage.
''It will take us a few years to challenge the big teams, but it has given us some confidence for the World Cup.
''We would definitely like to come back next year. It has been a great tournament and the crowd liked us. It's the best place in the world to play sevens.''