07 Sep 2015

The Hong Kong Women’s sevens team took a massive step closer to its objective of at least a second place finish in Asia after winning its first ever Cup final in an Asia Rugby Sevens Series tournament. Hong Kong beat hosts China 24-15 in the final of the China Sevens, the opening event on the 2015 Series.

The men’s seven suffered a shock 21-17 defeat at the hands of hosts China in the cup quarterfinal earlier today. China’s win set up the first men’s cup final of an Asian Rugby Sevens Series tournament to not feature Hong Kong since 2011. Japan ultimately won in Qingdao beating China in the final 28-12.

In the cup quarterfinal, the women’s seven swept by Uzbekistan 31-0 to set up a tantalizing encounter versus Japan in the semis. Hong Kong struck first against Japan with a try to Candy Cheng Tsz Ting to take a 5-0 lead into the break. Despite back and forth action in the second half neither team could add to the scoreline as Hong Kong advanced to only its second cup final since 2011.

Despite going down 5-0 early on in the final, Hong Kong remained poised. Paced by flying winger Aggie Poon Pak Yan, who scored her second natural hat trick of the tournament in the final – bringing her two day total to 12 tries - Hong Kong jumped out to a 12-5 lead at the half.

Poon’s final try to open the second half - and her outstanding conversion from the touch line - added to Hong Kong’s self-belief as they went ahead 19-5.Poon finished with 78 points from the weekend.

China managed a quick reply to Poon’s score but forward Nam Ka Man earned just reward for some grafting play over the tournament to score Hong Kong’s fourth try and push the lead to 24-10. China added a consolation score but never threatened Hong Kong’s lead, giving the SAR squad its first ever Asian sevens tournament title.

“The girls deserved to be in the final,” said Hong Kong coach and four-time Rugby World Cup winner Anna Richards. “I told them before the game if they played as they had all weekend then they would win. We didn’t need to pull a rabbit out of our hat or anything we just needed self-belief.”

It was Hong Kong’s fourth straight win over China this year and Richards is enjoying the run of results.

“China looked a little tired in the final and we were still scoring great tries. They went into extra time versus Kazakhstan in the semi so that had an effect but I also wonder if the fact that we beat them yesterday and in Dublin had anything to do with it; that has got to weigh on their minds a bit.”

For Richards, the win is the perfect build-up for the Olympic qualifiers in November when Asian qualification will send one men’s and one women’s team to the 2016 Games in Rio.

“Our girls believe they can win now. I’m not sure they had that before but now we do. We went down by a try to China early on but we stayed strong and China couldn’t do anything after that. We played well and we won well. Now we will go back and start preparing for the Sri Lanka Sevens in October and the Olympic qualifiers in November,” Richards added.

Hong Kong’s men’s seven were left ruing some defensive errors against China in their quarterfinal. After going down 7-0 early on, Hong Kong started to fight back with new captain Max Woodward leading the way. Woodward collected a brace on either side of halftime to give Hong Kong a 10-7 lead early in the second stanza.

But China were awarded a penalty try after Woodward was pinged on the try-line and sent to the sin-bin, leaving Hong Kong a man down and trailing China 17-10. China scored again shortly thereafter to widen the deficit to 21-10 before Rowan Varty clawed back a consolation try to finish the scoring at 21-17.

“Obviously we didn’t finish where we wanted to,” said head coach Gareth Baber. “But China played extremely well. We weren’t as aggressive as we had been earlier in the tournament and they were more physical in the contact area. We made a few too many errors defensively which gave them the opportunity and they took it. We know what we have to work on that when we get back to Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong routed to the Plate where they easily won, beating Malaysia 29-0 in the semi final and then blanking Kazakhstan 27-0 in the final. Hong Kong maintained the clean sheet versus Kazakhstan after tries from Michael Coverdale and Ben Rimene brought the halftime score to 12-0 with Rimene’s conversion.Calvin Hunter, Nick Hewson and Jamie Hood added the remainders in the second half.

“I was pleased with the way the team regrouped after the loss to China. You’ve got to keep playing whether points are at stake or not and we showed improvement in the areas that cost us against China. To go out and complete the rest of the day without conceding a point was a positive that we can take with us into the next competition in Thailand at the end of the month,” Baber concluded.

Japan won the cup in the men’s tournament, while South Korea captured third beating Sri Lanka 24-7. UAE won the Bowl beating Singapore 15-7. In the women’s competition Japan captured third place after beating Kazakhstan 15-0. Thailand won the Plate beating Singapore 27-0.

Hong Kong Men’s Sevens:

Max WOODWARD (captain); Nick HEWSON; Jamie HOOD; Rowan VARTY; YIU Kam Shing; Benjamin RIMENE; Alex MCQUEEN; Cado LEE Ka To; Christopher MAIZE; Tomasi LAWA; Calvin HUNTER; Michael COVERDALE.

Hong Kong Women’s Sevens Squad:CHENG Ka Chi, Christy (captain); Natasha OLSON-THORNE (vice captain); NAM Ka Man; Amelie SEURE; Candy CHENG Tsz Ting; Aggie POON Pak Yan; SHAM Wai Sum; Colleen TJOSVOLD; Stephanie CUVELIER; KWONG Sau Yan; LI Nim Yan Melody; CHONG Ka Yan*.