By Chris Ford
The Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens side claimed Silver at the Commonwealth Games after an epic Gold Medal Final against New Zealand.
The two great rivals were locked at 12-all at the end of regular time before an 80 metre effort from New Zealand well into extra-time sealed the gold.
It was a remarkable display from Australia who, already without co-captain Sharni Williams, lost star playmaker Charlotte Caslick in the first-half after she was removed for a HIA test.
The inaugural Commonwealth Games Women’s Rugby Sevens event was deemed a huge success following three days of packed crowds at Robina Stadium.
Australia ground out three wins in the pool stages against Wales, England and Fiji before brushing Canada aside in the semi-finals.
New Zealand were a bridge too far this time though, as they earned sweet revenge from their loss in the Olympic Gold Medal Final two years ago.
It wasn’t the fairytale ending that Tim Walsh had planned for his last game in charge with the coach departing the women’s program with immediate effect.
Australian women’s sevens coach Tim Walsh said: “We hate losing so we’re pretty disappointed. Everyone’s faces, we’re devastated and probably going ‘what if, what if’,” Walsh said.
“Just little things, not getting there, throwing the pass that shouldn’t. Mistakes do happen.
“But to be honest it was a top game for people to watch,” Walsh said.
Meanwhile the Australian men’s sevens side finished fifth at the Commonwealth Games after accounting for Kenya and Scotland on the final day of competition.
Australia started brightly on Sunday as they cruised past Kenya 33-5 in front of a sold out crowd at Robina Stadium.
Scotland were then no match for Andy Friend’s side as Australia shut out the Scots 26-0 to send the coach out on a high.
Australia lost just the one match all tournament following day one wins over Samoa and Jamaica before falling agonisingly short to England in the Pool B decider.
In a quirk of the Commonwealth Games format only one team progressed to the finals on Sunday unlike regular World Series events where the top two earn finals qualification.
Andy Friend now passes the coaching reins onto Tim Walsh with three legs left to play in the World Series before the World Cup in San Francisco in July.
Australian Men’s Sevens coach Andy Friend said: “We were gutted after losing to England, everybody was absolutely broken and had to pick ourselves up,” Friend said.
“I’m just really grateful for the opportunity I’ve had. Not many people get to coach their country.
“What lies ahead now I’m not too sure at this point in time. I’m just really proud, the people you meet, friendships that will never break, it’s pretty special,” Friend said.
Commonwealth Games results
Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens
Pool B: Australia 34-5 Wales
Pool B: Australia 29-12 England
Pool B: Australia 17-10 Fiji
Semi-Final: Australia 33–7 Canada
Gold Medal Final: Australia 12–17 New Zealand
Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens
Pool B: Australia 24-7 Samoa
Pool B: Australia 32-5 Jamaica
Pool B: Australia 17-26 England
Fifth-place semi-final: Australia 33–5 Kenya
Fifth-place playoff: Australia 26–0 Scotland