Strike weapon Cameron Clark underlined his cult hero status with a hat-trick of tries in Australia’s opening victory at the Sydney Sevens.
Clark set up the 24-7 win over Portugal with two barnstorming first-half tries in the southern corner at Allianz Stadium, right in front of dozens of the golden-clad “Clarky’s Army” supporter group.
Down 14-0, the Portuguese made the home side work for the result after the break before Clark eventually sealed the victory with his third just before fulltime.
He said the sell-out crowd had helped lift the Thunderbolts, but admitted they could have been more ruthless in attack.
“We had a lot of possession there and we probably should have been up a lot more than 14-0 at halftime, so there’s definitely a lot to work ongoing into the next couple of games,” Clark said.
“It wasn’t perfect but it was good to get a win.
“It was good to get a couple in front of (the Army) to get them going early in the day.”
Australia will have a tougher challenge in their second match against Canada who gave New Zealand a scare in the other Pool A fixture.
The Canadians led 12-5 before halftime before the Kiwis, victors in last weekend’s Wellington leg of the world series, clicked into gear.
Sonny Bill Williams came off the bench with four minutes left but saw little ball as his side scored three late runaway tries.
World series leaders South Africa were among the most impressive first-match performers but suffered a double injury blow in their emphatic 31-7 victory over Scotland.
The Blitzboks lost captain Philip Snyman to a lower arm injury as well as Kwagga Smith with a shoulder problem.
If both are ruled out, as feared, it will mean the world series pacesetters have to survive with just 10 players over the next five matches.
“What is good about the human is we adapt to anything so … we are just going to have to adapt and work around it,” Springboks convert Francois Hougaard said.
Defending world series champions Fiji flexed their muscles with a 31-0 drubbing of Samoa, while the USA also loomed as one of the tournament heavyweights.
The speed of Carlin Isles, the fastest man in the game, and Perry Baker were on show as they blew away Wales 42-0.
In other games, Argentina beat France 17-7, Kenya overcame Russia 24-10 and England overpowered Japan 26-5.