Trans-Tasman battles for Sunday sevens
AUSTRALIA will have to play "smarter" to pull off an upset victory over New Zealand in the quarter-finals of the Sydney Sevens on Sunday, according to coach Andy Friend.
The Aussie men ensured it'll be all trans-Tasman affair for both genders on Sunday after securing top spot in their pool with yet another thrilling win over Scotland in the second-last game of the night.
Having come from behind in the last minute to score and lead by two points, the Aussies lost a man to the sin bin after the kick-off and then had to survive two minutes with only six men against the Scots.
They held on grimly but, given the unforgiving nature of the Sydney draw this year, Australia's "reward" for remaining unbeaten was a quarter-final date with powerhouses New Zealand, who'd lost a post-siren thriller to Fiji just moments earlier.
It's a tough assignment but the narrow margins between joy and despair in sevens were on full display for Australia after the last game saw the USA hammer Canada. If the Aussies had have lost to Scotland and gone 2-1, they'd have missed the finals altogether on an inferior for-and-against.
Instead, they progressed and that result proved crucial to their seeding for the Commonwealth Games as well.
Being in the top eight in Sydney means they'll be much better placed for a friendly - or friendlier - draw on the Gold Coast in April.
Under the pump to get his Aussie team winning silverware, Friend will be helped by that outcome but a victory over New Zealand - and a finals run on Sunday - will go a long way to ease that pressure, too.
Friend said the Aussie's efforts on day two - a 23-21 win over Scotland and 27-5 win over Canada - was a mix of good and bad.
"Our highs were very high but our lows were ill-disciplined at the wrong times and we made some really poor decisions defensively. [Sunday], coming into quarter-finals, that'll hurt you," Friend said.
"Listen, we're three from three so we must be happy with that and we are happy with that but we have to tidy up a few areas.
"There is a lot of character in this side. That will hold us in good stead."
Boyd Killingworth is out with a hamstring injury, and Maurice Longbottom has an ankle issue that may sideline him too.
The last meeting between Australia and New Zealand was a 38-14 win to the Kiwis in Cape Town in December.
"We didn't make smart decisions in that game. [Sunday], when we get the football, we have to make smarter decisions," he said.
Australian captain Lewis Holland praised his team's will-to-win.
"They weren't the prettiest of games but they have come down to the wire and we have come out on top. That's a pleasing side to those two games but there is plenty to work on," Holland said.
"New Zealand are sharp this season. They have a Cup this season so they're no dangers to the quarter-finals so they'll be ready to rip. But it is our backyard, so we will be ready to rip as well."
Australia's quarter-final will be played at 12.12pm. In the other finals, Fiji will play the USA, red-hot South Africa will meet Kenya and England will play Argentina.