BRAVE HONG KONG FINISH SECOND IN ASIA’S OLYMPIC QUALIFIER

08 Nov 2015


Hong Kong finished runners-up to Japan in the Asia Rugby Sevens Qualifier Sunday in a thrilling final at the Hong Kong Stadium, just missing out on booking automatic entry to the 2016 Rio Games, where Rugby Sevens will debut.

At half-time Hong Kong were up 10-0 through tries to Alex McQueen and captain Max Woodward but Asian champions Japan regrouped and scored four unanswered tries in the second half to book their place in the Rio Olympics with a 24-10 victory.

Hong Kong coach Gareth Baber said his players had risen to the occasion, finishing the group stages unbeaten and gathering momentum as the tournament progressed.

In the end, though, it was not to be and Hong Kong now face a repechage which will gather 16 other runners-up teams from the various regional qualifiers – with the final spot for the Olympics on the line.

It was intense sevens from the first whistle and Hong Kong defended resolutely after taking the early lead.

“I was really proud of what they did in the first half,” said Baber. “They were brave, they took risks but they looked after each other as well.”

Hong Kong’s pre-tournament planning always had an eye on South Korea in the semi-finals and so it proved to be the case.

The best possible start was needed and Chris Maize duly delivered after 50 seconds. A mid-half fightback from the Koreans was nullified when Tom McQueen shrugged off a tackle to score under the posts, and it was 14-5 to the home side at the half.

Hong Kong’s defence then shut the game down and although Korea finally found a way through to close the gap, 14-10, skipper Max Woodward settled the result as Hong Kong secured the semi-final win needed to face Japan, with a 19-10 victory.

Hong Kong had earlier ensured they went through the group games unblemished, and top of the standing with four straight wins, steamrolling Malaysia 52-0 with no less than seven of the squad finding the line.

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