Men’s XV sweep Germany after 46-10 test win in Hong Kong, China

18th Nov 2023

The men’s and women’s rugby sevens squads of Hong Kong, China remain in contention after a frigid day one at the Asia Rugby Olympic Qualifiers in Osaka. With temperatures never exceeding single digits today, the small crowd was cold but the determination of Hong Kong, China’s elite rugby sevens athletes remained hot.

The men’s seven finished atop Pool B with a perfect 3-0 record and maintained a clean sheet defensively, scoring 129 points while conceding none; the women held serve as the second seeds in Pool E finishing as runners-up to China.

The men beat Thailand, 53-0; Singapore, 52-0, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 24-0 today. Hong Kong face China in the second cup semifinal at 11.45 tomorrow (Hong Kong time).
In Pool A, China upset the formbook by beating Japan 21-14 leaving them, Japan and South Korea level on two wins and a loss. Japan topped the pool on points differential and face UAE tomorrow in the first cup semifinal at 11.20 (Hong Kong time).

Hong Kong, China coach Jevon Groves was pleased with his squad’s effort: “Good day. Three from three, and we didn’t concede a point, so we are pretty pleased with that. The last game with UAE was a bit of a reality check in some areas, which gives us something to focus on.

“Ready for China tomorrow. They had a fantastic win today, but it’s all about what we can control and our focus. We were a bit inconsistent in parts of the UAE game but if we can be consistent over the 14 minutes, coupled with lots more energy, we still have lots more to give and it’s my job as a coach to challenge the boys for that,” Groves added.

The UAE game was a mixed blessing for Groves, with a punch in the nose encounter to close the day often proving helpful in preparing for a massive increase in intensity tomorrow.

“That’s the danger I think. Looking at the other side of the draw they had two or three tough games which can harden you. UAE caused us problems, so it’s good to have a bit of grounding there and the boys know that, but we can take a lot of confidence in the things we did right. Everyone had a good run out there; we balanced the use of the squad and everyone is healthy at the end of the day. Lots that we can be proud of but lots we can work on as well.”

The UAE asked questions in today’s finale but Hong Kong, China battled well to maintain its clean sheet. Max Denmark was impressive in disrupting the kick-offs getting a hand on nearly every restart and it was a similar result in the earlier games. Hong Kong also used the width of the field well, but for Groves those assets are shared in China’s style of play also.
“China is very good at kick-offs they have really tall guys and they are aggressive in the air. We have to fight for that possession. You win kickoffs and you score points from that transition. We do it well, China does it well and Japan does it well.

“China are also good at using the width and stretching teams. I like their rush defence as well, they took Japan around the ruck area so we have to be aware of that. It will be a massive test physically and tactically.”
Yiu Kam Shing, Liam Doherty and Max Denmark led the team in the try-scoring stakes with three each, while Russell Webb and Bryn Phillips each had positive days with the boot. Webb scored 20 points from 5 conversions and two tries, while Phillips was a point back with one try and seven conversions.

Hong Kong, China women’s seven booked a spot in tomorrow’s cup semifinals after fishing second in Pool E. The women cleared their first two hurdles with wins over India (29-5) and Guam (48-0), to set-up a top of the table clash against pool leaders China in their final match of the day.

Hong Kong hit a buzzsaw in that game as a combination of China pressure and Hong Kong inaccuracy saw China amass five first half tries and three conversions to lead 31-0 at the break. Hong Kong stiffened their defence in the second stanza, but ultimately conceded three more converted tries in a 50-0 loss.

Hong Kong gifted China a few easy scores after falling off tackles and putting the ball on the ground in scoreable positions. China were ruthless in making them pay for every mistake with the margins at this level exceedingly small.
It was a frustrating but not fatal finish in the sevens setting, but the disappointment was palpable at the end of the day for the squad.

“Lucky you get a day two in sevens,” said new coach Andy Vilk.
“Today has been one of those days where you need to take the positives, but also understand where we are as a team. We have to make sure we start tomorrow with the learnings from today, but also that we take the confidence we have built from the last few months into that game as well.
“Full credit to China. You can’t take anything away from them, but at the same side, we are disappointed in ourselves. We didn’t play as well as we wanted to; we didn’t execute the basics like we wanted to, and that is what happens when you play against good teams and you don’t get your game right.

“Thankfully sevens gives you that opportunity... another day, another two games,” Vilk added.

Hong Kong, China’s women’s squad will play Japan in the first cup semifinal at 09.40 (Hong Kong time), with China meeting Thailand in the other semi, potentially setting up a rematch of both the Asian Games final (China versus Japan) and bronze medal (Hong Kong versus Thailand) match tomorrow evening in Osaka.

The pressure is on to finish in the top three with the cup winners advancing directly to Paris 2024 while the first and second runners-up will keep their pathways open with reserved places in the international repechage to determine the final spots at the Games.
The Hong Kong, China Men’s XV also had a successful outing winning their second test match against Germany 46-10 this afternoon in Hong Kong to complete the sweep. On Tuesday, 14 November, Hong Kong, China beat Germany 29-16.
Hong Kong, China Men’s Seven for Asia Rugby Olympic Qualifier:
Max WOODWARD (Captain); James CHRISTIE; Michael COVERDALE; Max DENMARK; Liam DOHERTY; Liam HERBERT; LEE Ka-to, Cado; Alexander McQUEEN; Alessandro NARDONI; Bryn PHILLIPS; Russell WEBB; YIU Kam- shing, Salom.
Hong Kong, China Women’s Sevens Squad for Asia Rugby Olympic Qualifiers:
Natasha OLSON-THORNE (co-capt.); LI Nim-yan, Melody (co-capt.); AU YEUNG Sin Yi; Chloe CHAN; CHAN Chor Ki, Stephanie; CHONG Ka Yan; Shanna FORREST; FUNG Hoi Ching; HO Wai On, Jessica; NAM Ka Man; POON Hoi Yan, Vivian; TSE Wing Kiu

Photo credit : Asia Rugby/ JRFU