Australia need consistency to end 23-year jinx
Nineteen-eighty-eight: five syllables everybody associated with Australian sevens must be sick of hearing. That, of course, was the year they last won the Cup competition in Hong Kong, but captain Bernard Foley insists that record of underachievement is ready to be put to bed.
Australia were hugely inconsistent in escaping pool F, needing a controversial late refereeing decision to hang on against Canada and threatening to blow a three-try half-time lead in beating Argentina 21-14.
But despite those wobbles, Foley is confident his young team can end the jinx and finally make people shut up about 1988.
'I think we've got the squad and the ability to go all the way,' insisted the 21-year-old, who added to his try tally with the third against Argentina. 'We're going to need a little bit of luck - and we probably used a bit of it today - but I think we've got the guys here and they've worked hard enough definitely to take this out [the Cup], but we'll have to see what awaits us.'
The impressive Samoa await them today, topping pool C with a hard-fought win against South Sea rivals Tonga (24-17) and a comfortable victory over Scotland (31-14). Apart from the start of that Tonga game, when they conceded the fastest try of the tournament, then another in quick succession, Samoa have looked powerful, albeit against weaker opposition than Australia have faced. Another question mark over their prospects is an injury to Lolo Lui, who limped off against Tonga.
'We're pretty happy with the way we finished off against Scotland, but we've got a lot to work on. Tonga obviously exposed a few weaknesses,' said coach Stephen Betham. 'Lui is 50-50. I think he hurt his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), he's got a bit of swelling on his knee and we'll have to wait and see if it comes down.
'Tom Iosefo [who scored five tries yesterday] is taking his chances and has vindicated my decision to bring him in, but it's do or die tomorrow.'
Australia know they will have to find their best form for a whole game today. The hugely impressive Canada stunned them with two quickfire tries, and scored another, despite being a man down to take a 17-7 lead. Though Australia fought back through Ed Jenkins, John Grant and Lewis Holland in the second half, they were on the ropes in their own 22 in the dying seconds until referee James Matthew ruled Canada had fed the ball incorrectly at a scrum.
'We went away from our structures in the Canada game so that was disappointing, but we were able to scrape away with the win. We used our get out of jail card,' admitted Foley. 'But the ref sees what he sees and judged it accordingly. It came down to that and that's the way sevens is becoming, one call decides the match.
'We're definitely trying to get a bit of consistency ... we've been up and down and that showed in that game. We dropped off and we've got to sort that out for sure if we want to be a contender.'
Canada coach Geraint John tried to hold his tongue. 'Disappointment would be an understatement,' he said, adding to calls for video technology. 'It was a delusion on a call like that at the end, but that's life, there were occasions were we maybe should have won it earlier ... We played with six men and actually scored a try and I think that shows what the country's all about.'
Despite the disappointment, John was delighted with the performance of his amateurs, who beat Argentina and Zimbabwe and should see off France in their Bowl quarter-final today.
'It would have been nice to go away with three wins, but we've got to build on that and show people that perhaps we should be in the Cup,' he said. 'Our goal is to win [the Bowl].'