14 Sep 2018

Hong Kong’s men’s sevens team picked up where they left off as the Asian Games champions went undefeated on day one of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series in Hong Kong.  The women did one better than their last outing in Jakarta, with an early and important 22-7 win over Thailand, who had ushered Hong Kong out of the medals at the Asian Games earlier this month.


Captain Natasha Olson-Thorne paced Hong Kong with a brace of tries in the first half against Thailand with forward Nam Ka-man adding a score in the opening salvo as Hong Kong led 17-0 at the break after a conversion from Stephanie Chan.  Aggie Poon Pak-yan added a try to extend the lead to 22-0 before Thailand scored and converted at the final whistle.


The challenge mounted for Hong Kong in its final pool match of the day against top seeds and Asian Games champions Japan.


Hong Kong had a solid opening half, and while primarily playing behind the ball, managed to keep its defensive structures intact to limit Japan to a 7-0 lead after five minutes. Japan turned on the jets in the waning minutes of the half, and aided by a yellow card against Chan Tsz-ching in the sixth minute, added two more scores before the whistle as they took a 19-0 lead into the break.


Japan added a try to start the second half to push their lead to 24-0 before Hong Kong returned to full strength after the sin-bin. Poon clawed a try back for Hong Kong in the 13th minute with a great individual effort, creating space with an impressive fend, before sprinting 60-metres for the score.   Poon’s conversion cut the deficit to 24-7 but a try at the hooter brought the final total to 31-7.


Hong Kong coach Kevin West said that unforced errors were ultimately the difference against Japan:

“They were small errors, but small things can turn games. We had two tackles against Japan where we reached with arms. If we had executed those with chop tackles like we did against Thailand earlier, the game would have been on a knife’s edge and could have gone either way.


“Those small things are hugely important and it comes down to a matter of consistency for us, and being consistent in our processes regardless of the opposition. But it’s a tournament and not one match. There’s still another game for us tomorrow in the pool and our goal is to beat Korea.

“We are after three quality performances together tomorrow; performances where we execute our processes every single time. If we can do that then the results will follow,” he added.


West was pleased to have had a chance to integrate returning campaigners Sham Wai-sum and Colleen Tjosvold into the squad after both missed out on the Asian Games.  Their return, and the debut of Maggie Au Yeung Sin-yi, gives West a deep bench for tomorrow’s run.


“We were able to get everyone a run and they all added something today. Everyone is on the same page and has a clear idea of what we need to do and what we are trying to execute.


“Maggie looked very relaxed and is dealing with the occasion well. Every game she learns more and it’s so important for us to be building that depth. She’s one of three newer players along with Stephanie and Vivian [Chan], all of whom are performing, which is great for us,” said West.


The men cleared their opening hurdle against Malaysia with room to spare, running out 54-0 winners before coming up against a South Korean side absent of most of the names from its Asian Games squad.

The result was never in question as Hong Kong ran out easy 61-0 winners.  


At the end of the opening round, Hong Kong is atop the pool with a final match against the Philippines tomorrow to round out the preliminaries. But after an easier than expected opening day, coach Paul John is wary of a potential banana skin match tomorrow.


“We knew when we saw the sides that turned up that they are different teams compared to the Asian Games. Korea is certainly different from that semi-final in Jakarta.”


“So we knew it would be a bit different this weekend, but tomorrow we play the Philippines and they look quite physical as they normally are. Sri Lanka look like they normally do and we could end up crossing over against them in the semi finals, while Japan have also brought a good side.”


John was pleased with the way his side maintained its form throughout the day despite the big margins.


“Sometimes you can try and force it against teams like that when there is no need, but I was pleased with the way the boys played. We didn’t take anyone lightly and scored over 100 points, but we haven’t been tested as much I would have liked, which is always a bit of a concern.


“This competition you go straight into knockout so you have to be ready, but we know what we need to do tomorrow,” John added.


The women’s last pool match is against South Korea at 11.06 tomorrow, while the men will play the Philippines at 12.12.