"Tough as teeth": Aussie rookies impress as competition for Dubai SVNS heats up | Latest Rugby News | RUGBY.com.au
2024/04/01

ADVERTISEMENT

Australian men’s sevens coach John Manenti is facing a welcome headache at the selection

table ahead of next month’s SVNS Series opener in Dubai.

While the men didn’t match their women’s counterparts as , a seventh-place finish at Ballymore belied what was an otherwise impressive campaign from a squad missing the likes of Henry Hutchison, Maurice Longbottom and Henry Paterson.

Australia’s class was on display in dominant wins over Niue, Oceania Barbarians and the Cook Islands while Manenti’s side were left to rue missed conversions in narrow losses to Fiji (28-22) and eventual champions New Zealand (14-10).

ADVERTISEMENT

“I was actually really pleased. I mean, I’m never happy losing but I thought the games against the two World Series teams we were right there in the fight with four tries each against Fiji and two tries each against NZ,” Manenti said.

“We’ve got to learn to win those games, but I’m pleased given our young group. Both those games I had bench players averaging about 20 years of age and they had to close games against big teams, so I was pretty proud.

“I thought they did well for the most part and were clinical against the Oceania sides who you’d expect us to beat but respected with good performances, so plenty of positives to build from and really excited about Dubai in a few weeks and moving into an Olympic year.

ADVERTISEMENT

Rookie trio James McGregor, Ben Dalton and Aden Ekanayake were among Australia’s best at Ballymore with McGregor lighting up their Day 3 clash with the Cook Islands.

The Newington product racked up two tries and four try assists in a 47-0 win while Ekanayake (two tries) and Dalton (one try) gave Manenti plenty to think about ahead of Dubai and Cape Town SVNS selection.

“Jimmy’s a really good kid. There’s nothing of him but he’s tough as teeth, he keeps

throwing himself at those big buggers, and that last game really showed his class,” Manenti said.

“Ben (Dalton) had a good tournament, so did Aden Ekanayake, so there’s young guys there who are putting their hand up.

ADVERTISEMENT

We’ve got four or five pretty experienced players not here with us and they’re going to have to work pretty hard over the next couple of weeks to prove they’re ready to play.”

Stand-in captain Hayden Sargeant was pleased with the overall performance at Ballymore but said the side was hungry to beat the best come December 2 in Dubai.

“Really pleasing to see the young fellas coming on and the effort and enthusiasm they put out there was second to none, so we’re satisfied but we’re not full,” Sargeant said.

“We’re obviously disappointed with the way the ball swung in those last two games on Saturday (against Fiji and NZ) and we’ve still got a little to do.

ADVERTISEMENT

We got close and entered the 22 twice in those games and came away with nothing and we thought that might’ve been the difference.

“One key factor for us on Day 3 was the connection in defence – we saw in the last

game it was 47-0 so our defence went well and the attack flowed, so we’re

building nicely.”

Regular Aussie men’s skipper Nick Malouf is expected to be available for selection

after missing their final Oceania 7s game with a hip complaint.

ADVERTISEMENT

AD
Article
news flash