Men beat Japan 14-0 in Gold medal match, Women storm back on day 3 to finish 5th

02 Sep 2018

The Hong Kong, China Men’s Sevens side won a historic first ever Asian Games Rugby Sevens gold medal, beating Japan 14-0 in the final tonight in Jakarta, Palembang, Indonesia.  It was third time lucky for Hong Kong after having finished as runners-up to Japan in both the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games.

Hong Kong beat South Korea convincingly in the semi-final, 19-7, to set-up another sevens showdown with Japan, who had struggled in their semi, only narrowly surpassing Sri Lanka, 12-10.

Veteran Salom Yiu Kam-shing came through in the final, scoring the first try of the match and his seventh of the weekend, after 90 seconds, with captain Ben Rimene adding the conversion.  Hong Kong marshalled its slim advantage for the remainder of the half and were given a bonus when Japan’s Katsuyuki Sakai was sin-binned late in stoppage time.  

Alessandro Nardoni, who made his senior debut in July at the Rugby World Cup Sevens, rewarded coach Paul John for giving him the start in the final with a try to close out the half. Rimene’s second conversion gave Hong Kong a 14-0 lead at the break.

With Japan short-handed for the opening minutes of the second half, both sides traded blows but not scores over the final seven minutes as Hong Kong ran out the clock on a historic first Asian Games Rugby Sevens gold.

It was the eighth Gold Medal won by Hong Kong at the 2018 Games.

Coach Paul John called it a “massive” win.

“Our defence in the final was excellent and I can’t fault the guys at all. They have just been outstanding all week,” said John of the Gold medal haul, his side’s biggest victory since he joined the HKRU in March 2017.

Equally effusive was Dai Rees, Chief Rugby Operations Officer at the HKRU, who first joined the Union as sevens coach in 2008.

“It is really an emotional moment,” said Rees, nothing the effort of players like Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Jamie Hood, Ben Rimene and Lee Jones in past Asian Games finals.

“It has been an incredible journey from eight years ago in Guangzhou, really nine years ago with the hosting of the East Asian Games in Hong Kong. Guys like Salom and Jamie, you can just see the emotion on the their faces, having come up just short so many times against Japan.

“This is a well deserved moment for all of the hard work that has been put into this programme, by those guys, the coaches, the Union, everyone really.

“To win with guys like Max Denmark and Hugo Stiles, (who were only 12 or 13 when we played in 2010, and are coming into senior rugby with the expectation of winning gold from their U20s experience, who don’t have the experience of losing finals to Japan), is something important for the future as well.

“We are not often acknowledged as a local sport given rugby’s colonial past, but to win Gold here tonight with our boys, who were born and raised in Hong Kong, on that middle platform with our flag being raised and our anthem being played… It is a special day for Hong Kong Rugby,” Rees exclaimed.

Men’s Sevens captain Ben Rimene shared the excitement saying, “Winning gold for Hong Kong is an awesome feeling.”

“There have been some good, close battles against Japan over the years, so it was great for the team to get the win against what was a very good Japan side. Our defensive work and work rate got us through the final and keeping Japan scoreless in the final is something we are very proud of.

“The squad was always confident that we could do it, but we knew that we would have to work hard for it. The players would like to thank all of the coaching and physio team and the support we have received from the Union and the Hong Kong Rugby community.

“This was a collective effort by everyone to get us this gold medal,” Rimene added.

A disappointed Hong Kong Women’s Seven vowed to bounce back after being ushered out of medal contention last night by Thailand - and they did just that - storming to fifth place after scoring 96 points without conceding a try on the final day of the competition.

Hong Kong dispatched Indonesia in the morning round, 51-0, to set-up the fifth place play-off tie with Singapore, whom Hong Kong had beat 26-7 on day one.

Stephanie Chan Chor-ki, who made her Hong Kong debut last March, led all scorers against Indonesia with a hat-trick, adding three conversions in the match.  Other scorers included Chan Tsz-Ching, Jessica Ho Wai-on, Nam Ka-man, Chong Ka-yan and Ivy Kwong Sau-yan.

Hong Kong were not to be denied against Singapore either, storming to a 45-0 win behind a brace of tries from Natasha Olson-Thorne and scores from Kwong, Chong Ka-yan, Stephanie Chan and Nam Ka-Man.

Coach Kevin West was pleased with the way his squad rebounded and believes the experience will hold Hong Kong in good stead when the Asia Rugby Sevens Series heats up shortly after the Asiad.

“It was a great day for us. The girls went out with a point to prove and they did that emphatically. It can be hard to beat the same team twice in a tournament like we did against Singapore, but we went out and nearly doubled our score from the opening match against them.

“So while not satisfied with the overall results of the tournament, we are happy with the mental resilience the team showed today.

“We’ve shown that when we put our game together it works. Now we need to be able to do that under pressure and to keep our processes and to keep putting together the game that works for us under that pressure.

“One of our goals was to use today as a build up to the Asian series. We have set ourselves a squad goal of a top three finish and after today we think that is still very realistic and achievable,” West added.

Japan’s women defied recent form to edge China for gold in the women’s competition squeaking out a 7-5 win after China scored in the ninth minute but missed the conversion before the Japanese held them off for the remainder of the final.

South Korea beat Sri Lanka, 36-14, in the men’s tournament and Kazakhstan defeated Thailand, 29-7, in the women’s competition as both nations defended their bronze medals from 2014.