Rugby boys to play for Gold

July 20, 2009 by J-Wire
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The 24-year wait is finally over for the Australian Maccabiah Rugby team after they qualified for their first final at the Games since 1985 with a 41-19 demolition of Israel.

Hockey girls show support                 Photos  Henry Benjamin

Hockey girls show support Photo Henry Benjamin

Their opponents in the gold medal match will be bitter rivals Great Britain who accounted for Australia in the opening game of the competition.

Dealt a cruel blow only weeks before the tournament when they were switched to the group of death with the Brits and South Africa, the Australian march to the decider has been a challenging but brave one for a tight knit group that has acted as outstanding ambassadors for their country both on and off the field.

Coach Andrew Hendry said the achievement is still to sink in but he has always had faith his players could qualify for the final, despite the uphill battle. “I knew that if we got through the group stage we could do it because getting over that hurdle would give us the momentum to kick on.”

He added: “We took the game to them tonight and controlled it from the start. It was a superb performance from the whole squad.”

The semi-final win was set up by a blistering first half that the home nation had no answer for. The Australian forwards swamped the Israeli pack from the opening play, constantly winning possession of the ball for their backs to penetrate a stunned opposition defence.

The opening try came after 10 minutes from a break down the left by lock Brad Sewitz who set Steve Cohen free allowing the half-back to pass to David Davis in the corner.

Captain Alex Lehrer put in another faultless display at full-back and was instrumental in setting up Australia’s second try with a darting run that made the Israelis look like statues before finding centre Keith Friedlander to finish off a scintillating piece of play.

Steve Cohen capitalised on the Australian dominance by slotting the conversion and then another penalty shortly after to make it 18-0.

There was still more pain to inflict on the Israelis in the first half when flanker Jon-Jon Levy broke free in one of his many dangerous runs that almost took the Aussies over the line again.

A penalty was called which Cohen steered home with his deadly right boot for an astonishing 21-0 half-time buffer.

Stung by the domination of the men in gold, Israel looked a different side at the beginning of the second half, pressing Australia close to their defensive line as they battled to get back into the contest.

A desperate piece of defending by Lehrer prevented an immediate response but it was not long before the constant pressure broke down the tough Aussie backline.

The gap was closed further with a second try to the Israelis which woke up their fans and had the large Australian contingent, including the Australian Ambassador to Israel James Larsen and Victorian Opposition Leader Ted Bailleau, worried for the first time in the match.

Australia needed a circuit breaker to change the momentum and when winger Jarrad Shein capped off his brilliant performance with a brave charge at a high ball to win a penalty, Australia was able to extend the lead back to 12 with yet another true kick from Cohen.

Friedlander’s second try shortly after put the memorable result beyond doubt before an exclamation mark was put on the performance with a fourth try from Jason Levine.

The gold medal match between Australia and Great Britain will be on Wednesday night at Herzliya.

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