Argentina won the third event of the HSBC SVNS 2024, beating Australia in Perth (Boorloo) in front of the biggest rugby audience in Western Australia’s capital since the Wallabies drew with the Springboks in the Tri Nations Series in 2017.
The sell-out crowd at HBF Park, hosting a SVNS event for the first time, were treated to near-perfect weather conditions as both Australia teams made the final against the odds.
But in a repeat of the final last time out in Cape Town, Los Pumas Sevens – ruthless in attack and relentless in defence – again ran out comfortable winners to spoil the hosts’ party, prevailing 31-5 after reaching their seventh series final in a row.
Moneta on the money for dominant Argentina
After a breathless, error-strewn opening Marcos Moneta drew first blood after Nathan Lawson’s harsh-looking yellow card for a deliberate knockdown reduced Australia to six men.
Argentina never looked back after that. German Schultz powered through at the start of the second half and Matteo Graziano helped himself to a brace of tries – first, pouncing on an Australian error, then plucking an inside pass out of the air – either side of another scintillating finish from Moneta.
Matthew Gonzalez did at least give the 18,000 crowd something to cheer with a late consolation score, but Argentina look close to unbeatable at the moment.
“I don’t have words to describe how I’m feeling right now,” forward Santiago Alvarez said. “I’m very happy, very proud of this team, these young men. Australia are a very tough team, we know them well, we’ve played them several times this year but we kept the focus on our process, our system.
“Can we keep it up? I don’t know. Today, we will celebrate. Tomorrow we will start talking about the next tournament.”
Ireland on the up with Olympics in their sights
In the bronze-medal match, Ireland claimed just their third podium finish since becoming a core sevens nation with an entertaining 24-7 over an increasingly ill-disciplined Fiji.
Former World Player of the Year Terry Kennedy belatedly came to the party with two tries under the posts, with two more from Gavin Mullin in a game also memorable for Joseva Talacolo’s roundhouse offload for Fiji’s only try.
“It’s unbelievable,” a delighted Kennedy said. “The last time out in Cape Town, we played Fiji in the third-place play-off and we put in a really poor performance. We had a good while to rectify it and thankfully we did. We want to keep pushing and reaching finals, but with the Olympics coming up, it’s really important to win these third-place games.”
Earlier, the first semi-final had been billed between a shootout between Kennedy and fellow sevens star Moneta but the No.1 ranked team were in red-hot form, preventing Ireland from completing a single pass in the first six minutes as Argentina raced out to a 19-0 lead in a first-half blitz.
Zac Ward gave Ireland some hope with an early second-half score but Argentina hit back immediately to ease through 24-5 to the final.
In a repeat of the last-four match-up in Cape Town, the second semi-final looked to be a much closer affair on paper with Fiji, who had beaten fellow powerhouses France, New Zealand and South African en route to the semis, facing Australia, who progressed despite suffering two pool-stage defeats.
Captain Nick Malouf picked a beautiful running line off Maurice Longbottom’s perfectly weighted pass to give Australia the lead.
Fiji hit back immediately to make it 7-7 at half-time but, after Nathan Lawson finished off a fine Australia team move, Longbottom cleverly opted to kick for goal from a subsequent penalty, taking their lead out to more than a converted score.
He then kicked long to find touch from the restart. Australia stole the lineout and Henry Palmer touched down in the opposite corner to clinch victory 22-7.
Argentina extend their lead at the top of the men’s standings with Australia moving level on points with Fiji in second. Ireland remain in fifth place but are just two points further back.
The HSBC SVNS 2024 is in Vancouver, Canada for the next event in the series, on the weekend of 23-25 February.