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Aussies find fault with 42-point victory

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 March, 2011, 12:00am

After a disciplined, impressive 42-0 romp against the always competitive Zimbabwe, you might have thought Australia coach Michael O'Connor would have had little cause for complaint. Not a bit of it.

O'Connor arrived in Hong Kong warning that sevens rugby needed to clarify its rules and embrace technology, and felt the pool F victory that opened the tournament merely added further weight to his argument.

Australia led 14-0 at half-time through top try-scorer John Grant and Ed Jenkins and the boot of Hamish Angus, but it was one that got away that had O'Connor vexed.

'We were a bit disappointed only to be two tries up,' said the man trying to break a jinx that famously stretches back to 1988, the last time Australia won Hong Kong's Cup championship. 'We had a try disallowed which was patently a try and this is a great example of why we need to have video referees for these sorts of tournaments, particularly when you're looking at for and against [points totals in the pool stages].

'It was disappointing to have that decision go against us because of the main goal official. That's a pointer for the future - these kind of things can't [continue to] happen.'

Apart from that minor grievance, O'Connor had plenty of reason to be cheerful.

His men were superbly disciplined in possession, restricted Zimbabwe to almost no opportunities and were patient in the build-up, happy to move the ball around before finding the space for explosive flyhalf Bernard Foley, with two second-half tries, and exciting teenager Lewis Holland, with one, to capitalise on. Zack Holmes added another at the death after Gardener Nechironga had been sin-binned and Angus was impeccable with the boot.

O'Connor admitted he expected a tougher match against Zimbabwe, but with pool F looking like the tournament's 'group of death', he knows more difficult challenges await today.

'Canada and Argentina are both good teams, but the thing about Hong Kong is that there are no easy games. It's a pretty tough pool, and that's why it's pleasing to get 40 points; it was a good effort.'

Southern hemisphere rivals South Africa followed Australia into action and a shock looked a possibility for much of the first half. Spain took the lead through Carlos Blanco after a minute and kept South Africa at bay for nearly five. But Paul Jordaan and Branco du Preez ensured rightful order was restored by half-time, before touchdowns from Paul Delport and Cecil Afrika (two) in an improved second-half display.

Afrika, the livewire, dreadlocked star of the Springboks' Cup victory in Las Vegas in the last round, added four conversions to seal an ultimately comfortable 33-5 win.

'I don't think we can be too happy with how we played in the first half,' said South Africa coach Paul Treu. 'I think we played a lot better in the second half but at least the players can go back and relax. We see how tough it's going to be. Any team coming to Hong Kong, it's a special tournament, the biggest in the world and everybody's going to up their game - especially for us coming off a win in Vegas, everyone is going to know what to expect and raise their game against us.'

After their impressive Afrika-inspired win in the US, South Africa might be a decent outside bet for a first Hong Kong title, but Treu was eager to play down his side's chances.

'England and New Zealand are the front-runners, Samoa won it last year, Fiji have won it a couple of times so those four teams are the favourites,' he insisted. 'We have so many young players, we just want to keep building and keep learning - if we come out here and win it would really be a bonus.'



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