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New Zealand have once again broken the hearts of Australian rugby fans and maintained a stranglehold over their trans-Tasman rivals by denying a cherished home triumph at the Sydney Sevens.
A gutsy Australia looked set to win their first world series tournament in four years when they led 24-17 with two minutes left at Allianz Stadium.
But the upset was snuffed out by Rieko Ioane who crossed for two tries in the dying moments for a 27-24 escape act in front of a sell-out crowd.
Ioane finished with a hat-trick in a superb man-of-the-match performance, but the Aussies were kicking themselves after some late errors.
The most telling was when Henry Speight was caught high in contact when Australia had the ball, and a two-point lead, with five seconds left.
The ensuing scrum from the maul gave NZ the chance to steal the match.
Australia started brightly with 18-year-old speedster Henry Hutchison opening the scoring after a Cameron Clark bust.
But the All Black Sevens showed their power with a 90m counter-attacking try where Akira Ioane gave Hutchison a vicious fend before handing off to brother Rieko.
Sonny Bill Williams started the final but did his side no favours with a high tackle which he was yellow-carded for, allowing the Thunderbolts to strike with a second to Hutchison just before the break.
New Zealand still managed to tie the scores at halftime thanks to a sideline burst by Kurt Baker from the kickoff.
Australia’s painful defeat still didn’t detract from the overall success of the inaugural Sydney tournament which reaped a total attendance of 73,313 over the weekend.
Australia, showing themselves to be genuine medal contenders at this year’s Rio Olympics, progressed to the decider thanks to two gutsy wins over top-four rivals England and South Africa.
Young gun Hutchison was the hero in the most gripping of quarter-finals when he sped over late to force the game into extra-time before again breaking English hearts with his second in the corner.
Australia then outsmarted the Blitzboks in the semi-final when they held on 12-7 against the world series leaders.
Fiji beat South Africa 26-12 in the third-place play-off while Argentina finished fifth overall after beating Kenya 24-0 in the Plate final.
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