26 Oct 2015

The Hong Kong Men’s Sevens team reached the Plate final at the Central Coast Sevens in Australia.

A solid run at this intensely competitive tournament will have given the players some final seasoning ahead of the Asia Rugby Sevens Qualifiers (7-8 Nov. at the Hong Kong Stadium).

The winner of the 10-team men’s competition in Hong Kong will advance as Asia’s representatives at the Rio 2016 Games, where Rugby Sevens will make its Olympic debut. The six women’s teams will compete across a two-tournament qualification in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

The Central Coast Sevens is one of the world’s premier sevens tournaments outside of the HSBC Sevens World Series, posing a good final exam for the men’s seven.

Hong Kong responded to the challenge, with wins over Ozboks (27-10) and USA Sevens development side Tigers Rugby (19-12) before its sole loss against Fiji sevens feeder club Daveta, 5-26.

Salom Yiu Kam Shing found his form with four tries on day one, with captain Max Woodward adding a brace, seeing Hong Kong through to the Cup quarterfinal against a second Fijian seven, Tabadamu.

Tabadamu proved too strong, winning 21-12. Hong Kong then routed to the Plate where they met Kiwi side Rangataua in the semi final, winning 21-7, with Yiu collecting his fifth try to add to a penalty try and a try from Jamie Hood.

The reward for winning? A place in the Plate final but also Hong Kong’s third match against a Fijian side, this time Yamacia, who won 45-12. That match was the only disappointment of the weekend with Hong Kong conceding some easy tries as they trailed 33-0 at halftime.

But the tour wasn’t about silverware on the weekend, but being in with a chance for gold next year in Brazil and in that objective coach Gareth Baber was satisfied.

“I’m pleased with our overall performance and it was a good exercise for us to play against strong teams from New Zealand and Fiji. Every game was tough and put us under pressure, which was the idea.
“Ultimately, we exposed the squad to six world-class, competitive games and came out with some wins and injury-free,” the coach concluded.

Baber singled out captain Max Woodward, who as usual covered the most ground over the tournament, and also credited Jamie Hood and Alex McQueen.

Another encouraging sign was the return of Mark Wright and Tom McQueen from long injury lay-offs.

“Luckily we didn’t have any injury concerns during the tournament and those players who came back from injury looked in really good form. Mark Wright and Tsang Hing Hung got some good game time and it looks like everyone is in good conditioning for the challenge ahead” Baber added.

So did the weekend make the coach’s selection process easier or more difficult?

“We need to analyse the games once we get back and look at the team again in trainings before stamping the final squad,” said Baber.

The Hong Kong men’s and women’s sevens teams will be announced on November 1 at King’s Park, Kowloon.

The true test of whether the team’s experience in Australia has paid off will be seen in two weeks time when Hong Kong returns match-tested for one of the most climactic moments in Hong Kong rugby history at the Stadium.