The Hong Kong men’s sevens squad reached the Cup semi finals of the Borneo Sevens 2017 before losing 26-19 to Australian sevens development squad, Tribe 7s.
Hong Kong easily dispatched Sri Lanka in the quarter final, 31-0. The win gives Hong Kong a psychological advantage over their Asian rivals ahead of the World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifiers at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens where the two teams are grouped in the same pool.
Beating Sri Lanka put Hong Kong into the semi finals against Tribe 7s, a development squad for the Australia Sevens team and the class of the tournament on day one. Earlier, Tribe 7s had beat Malaysia 29-0 to book their place in the semi final.
In the semi final, Hong Kong fought back from a twelve point deficit at the break to pull within a try of advancing but ultimately time ran out on their comeback attempt.
“It was really good to play Tribe. They are a very good side with a lot of Australian sevens development players. I’m really pleased with the way we played against them. There wasn’t much between us in that game at the end of the day and they benefited from a pretty fortunate bounce that made the difference.
“I was most pleased that we came back to score late and battled through to the end. I think it shows a lot of spirit,” said new Hong Kong coach Paul John, who was coaching the team for the first time in Borneo.
Hong Kong got on the board first after Salom Yiu Kam-shing skied to collect the opening kick-off and sprint away for a try in the corner, which was converted by Ben Rimene, for a 7-0 lead. But it was all Tribe 7s after that in the first half, as the Aussies scored three tries in quick succession to take a 19-7 lead into half-time.
In the second half, Hong Kong fought back bravely with Lee Ka-to finishing off a nice piece of footwork from Toby Fenn, who did well to stay upright in the tackle before offloading to Lee, whose try brought the score to 14-19 with six minutes remaining.
With momentum swinging in favour of Hong Kong, the Australians were on defence for much of the half. Under pressure deep in their half, the Aussies were forced into an aimless clearance kick up-field. A fortunate bounce landed in the hands of an onrushing Tribe attacker who ran fifty metres to score and extend the lead to 26-14.
Alex McQueen added a try at the final hooter for Hong Kong as time expired on their comeback attempt. Hood’s conversion was unsuccessful and Tribe 7s advanced to the final, 26-19.
After his first coaching experience with the team, Hong Kong coach Paul John was pleased with his squad’s performance.
“They are a really good group of guys and Jevon [assistant coach Groves] and I really enjoyed working with them. They care a lot about each other and about creating a high performance environment and that showed this weekend,” said John.
John was also pleased that his wider objectives were met: “For me obviously it’s been great to finally be with the squad in a competitive environment. There is nothing like two days of high-intensity sevens to learn about a team.
“For the players, our main objective of getting them back into sevens mode was also met. They haven’t been in an environment like this since playing in Fiji in January and have come off a long stretch of fifteens with the domestic championships just finished, so it was great to get in six games over two days.
“l am really looking forward to working with the squad over the next three weeks in our build-up to the Hong Kong Sevens,” added John.
The squad will return to Hong Kong on Tuesday to finalise their preparations for the upcoming Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens (7-9 April). Hong Kong will compete in the World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier with a chance at promotion to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in 2018.
Hong Kong is pooled with Chile, Sri Lanka and Namibia in Pool F of the Qualifier.