10 Nov 2019

Hong Kong, China women’s sevens squad remains on target for Tokyo 2020 after splitting its day one results in Pool A of the Asia Rugby Olympic Sevens qualifiers in Guangzhou.

Hong Kong beat Sri Lanka convincingly in the afternoon match, 27-7, wrapping things up pretty much by half-time after a natural hat-trick from winger Chong Ka-yan and a fourth score from Vivian Poon put Hong Kong up 22-0 at the break.  

An early try for Sri Lanka against the run of play was the only blot on the copybook in the second half as the gap closed to 22-7 after nine minutes.

Hong Kong closed the match memorably with Anna Birkett, earning her first cap today and one of two 17-year olds in the squad, scored a sensational try, turning the corner against a speedy defence and muscling her way with multiple fends for an 80-metre score to close the game out 27-7.

That set-up the heavyweight battle against Pool A top seeds and tournament hosts, China, who look formidable with power and pace across their squad.  

China jumped out to an early 7-0 lead after turning over Hong Kong from the kick-off, but the visitors came right back to level the scores from the re-start.  Hong Kong’s impressive scoring drive started from a tough 50-metre run from Chong Ka-yan, who fought through the defensive line before opening the burners to carry the ball deep in China’s half for the first time.  

Good support play and ball retention produced the chance for Natasha Olson-Thorne who cut against the grain to crash over for the try.  The conversion from Vivian Poon levelled the scores at 7-all.  

But from there it was one-way traffic for the hosts, who scored twice more in quick succession to lead 21-7 at half time, before running the margin to 42-7 at full-time.  

Coach Iain Monaghan used the match to his advantage, turning to his young bench quickly with other fresh caps Chloe Chan and Florence Symonds all getting crucial experience against China, whom Hong Kong are now hoping to meet again in tomorrow’s cup final.

“Some aspects of our preparations came out in that game, and against the type of pressure that China can put teams under, that is encouraging,” said coach Iain Monaghan.

“We saw aspects of our preparation in the first half and that was really good but we need to be sure that when we create momentum from scoring, we are better at sustaining it. We were pretty easy to let them get back into the game right away there, I thought.

“So, we were inconsistent, but when we were accurate, we were very highly accurate, and the girls saw that. They are determined and hungry to achieve their target of a complete 14-minute performance. They have not hit that yet and they know it. They are keen to set that right tomorrow,” said Monaghan.

Hong Kong now needs to knuckle down for a must-win against South Korea tomorrow morning at 09.44 to advance as expected as the runners-up in Pool A to the cup semi-finals, where they would likely face Kazakhstan who lead Pool B overnight, at 13.14.

“We just have to be accurate and consistent and work hard towards what we have set ourselves as targets,” said Monaghan.

A pleasing sign is the number of new faces in the squad and the opportunities they have had to play in a competitive environment, and really for the first time together with the wider squad.

“I’m pleased that the young girls played to the level they did, which allowed us to get them on even earlier today than we had hoped to. We spread a lot of game time across all of the players today, which is good. I have never seen a tournament won on day one so we should be fresh for all three games tomorrow,” the coach added.

HKRU Women’s Sevens Squad; 2020 Olympic Qualifiers, Guangzhou (9-10 Nov. 2019):

Melody LI Nim-yan (Captain); Natasha OLSON-THORNE; CHONG Ka-yan; SHAM Wai-sum; NAM Ka-man; Jessica HO Wai-on; Vivian POON; Maggie AU YEUNG; Agnes CHAN; Chloe CHAN; Florence SYMONDS; Anna BIRKETT*.

* HK debut