HONG KONG SCORE 106, CONCEDE NONE ON DAY ONE OF ASIAN OLYMPIC QUALIFIER

23 Nov 2019

The Hong Kong, China men’s sevens squad beat Chinese Taipei, 52-0, in their final pool match of the Asian qualifiers for the 2020 Olympic Games today in Incheon, South Korea. Earlier, Hong Kong beat Malaysia 54-0, posting 106 points in the pool round - without conceding any - to finish as the top overall team after day one.

It was a strong performance as expected from the top seeds at the qualifier, with chief Asian rivals Japan already through to the 2020 Games as hosts.

One of Hong Kong’s emerging players was prominent to start with Max Denmark having a key hand in Hong Kong’ first three tries, all scored successively from Chinese Taipei kick-offs.

Denmark, playing in the forwards this weekend, used his height and physicality to secure possession at the kick-off. He finished his first effort with a keeper try up the guts of the Taipei defence as the burly 21-year old muscled over for his third score of the day.

From there, the floodgates opened with Hong Kong running out to a 21-0 lead with tries from Tom McQueen and Michael Coverdale following from Denmark’s ability to disrupt at the re-start.

Chinese Taipei tightened ship, mustering a good period of play towards the end of the first half and mounting their first attacks on Hong Kong’s line.  

Defensively, Hong Kong were superb again, keeping Chinese Taipei off the score sheet, before Demark scored his second try of the half, this time from out wide as he finished off a kick-pass from Russell Webb in the corner. Hugo Stiles added another score before the break as Hong Kong entered the half up 26-0.

The second half was more of the same with coach Paul John using his bench to good effect as Hong Kong ran in three more tries through Salom Yiu Kam-shing, captain Max Woodward and centre Alex McQueen.

That deep bench could prove potent weapon for Hong Kong in tomorrow’s action with the intensity set to increase significantly for the knockout stages.

Hong Kong will play an unfamiliar opponent in Afghanistan, ranked eighth of nine teams after day one, in tomorrow’s cup quarterfinal at 10.06am Hong Kong time. Korea play Malaysia, China face Singapore, and the Philippines play Sri Lanka in other quarterfinals action.

Hong Kong coach Paul John was pleased to have closed out the day strongly saying, “We were able to establish our momentum with three good kick-offs leading to three good tries, but it was a bit scrappy at the end of the first half. We managed to keep them out and defensively we were really good today.

“We picked it up again in the second half. We have people that are coming on and having an impact whether they are starting or coming off of the bench and our kickers are kicking well, but it is the defence that is going to make the difference when it comes to the knockout stages.

“We played well as a team today, we covered and worked hard for each other and that is what sevens is all about,” said John at day’s end.

The only mar on the day was a potential injury to another new face in the squad in 22-year old Liam Herbert. He will be assessed overnight with a decision in the morning on whether to trigger the 13th man injury reserve, with the vastly experienced Ben Rimene waiting in the wings.

While Rimene is a more than capable replacement, Herbert is playing alongside Denmark in the forwards this weekend and the replacement could leave Hong Kong light up front before expected physical clashes in the semi-finals and cup final.

“We don’t know at the moment about Liam. We didn’t risk him against Taipei but we will have a look at him tonight and see how he is,” John added.

Looking ahead to tomorrow’ competition John said they didn’t know what tomorrow ill bring yet.  

“We haven’t looked at anyone in too much detail today. We will obviously go back tonight and have a look at the games, particularly that China Philippines game, where China had a good win. But we know very well that there are three or four sides here this weekend that are capable of beating anyone, China, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Korea at home.”

All of tomorrow’s action will be live-streamed at https://www.facebook.com/hkrugby.

Should Hong Kong bring home the trophy from Incheon it will qualify for the first ever Olympics in Hong Kong Rugby Union history, and be just the second Hong Kong team to qualify for a team sport event at a Games since Hockey in 1964.

HKRU Men’s Sevens Squad; 2020 Olympic Qualifiers, Incheon, South Korea (23-24 Nov. 2019):

Max WOODWARD (Captain); Max DENMARK; Lee JONES; Mike COVERDALE; Liam HERBERT; Cado LEE Ka-to; Salom YIU Kam-shing; Russ WEBB; Alex MCQUEEN; Tom MCQUEEN; Jamie HOOD; Hugo STILES; Ben RIMENE.



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