Australia have qualified for the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Sevens but momentum and injuries have hurt their chance of winning some long-awaited silverware.
The Thunderbolts lost to the United States 22-7 in their final pool game on Saturday, but won through to the cup knockout stages courtesy of comprehensive victories over Portugal (45-7) and Argentina (28-0).
Australia will now meet England in the quarter-finals on Sunday as they look to take home the tournament winner’s trophy that they’ve been so agonisingly close to claiming over the past two tournaments.
The Andy Friend-coached side made the semi-finals at the last tournament in Las Vegas and were pipped in the last minute in the last two finals in Las Vegas and Sydney as they look to the long-term goal: a gold medal at the Rio Olympics.
The Aussies face a tough task in Hong Kong due to tournament-ending injuries to flyer Nick Cummins (ankle) and playmaker Lewis Holland (foot).
Holland’s injury – which Friend said will rule him out of the next World series round in Singapore – is a big blow as he’s been the Thunderbolts’ most reliable midfield spark.
However, on the bright side was that Sydney speedster John Porch, four months out from the Rio Olympics, put his hand up for selection with three tries against the Portuguese and one against the Argentinians with some clinical finishing.
“In our warm-up we were a little quiet,” said Friend of the US match.
“We didn’t have that same energy we had previously.
“We’re down to 10 – and maybe that was playing on the boys’ minds, they know they’ve hopefully got three games tomorrow.”
In the other quarter-finals, New Zealand face Wales, The US take on South Africa and Fiji battle Kenya.