05 Sep 2015

Stephanie Cuvelier marks her return from injury w a brace on debut at China 7s.

The Hong Kong National Men’s and Women’s Sevens teams completed the first day of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series in Qingdao, China without a loss to reach the cup quarter finals of their respective competitions tomorrow (Sunday, 6 Sept.).

The Women’s Seven punctuated a strong outing with a 19-10 win over hosts and defending Asian champions China 19-10 in the last women’s game of day one. It was Hong Kong’s third successive win over China this year.

Earlier in the day, Hong Kong cruised past Singapore 53-0 and Sri Lanka 27-5 to make a strong statement about their intentions on this year’s Series with Hong Kong coach Anna Richards targeting a finish better than last year’s third place in Asia this season.

Hong Kong was again paced by flyer Aggie Poon Pak Yan who scored four tries in the match against Singapore and followed up with a natural hat trick against Sri Lanka.Poon added five conversions to take her personal haul to 45 points at the completion of day one.

In the last match of the day, Hong Kong were perfectly composed against China, coming back from a five-nil deficit early in the match after China had spent most of the opening stages perched on the SAR line.

Lead by a gritty defensive effort from captain Christy Cheng Ka Chi, front rowers Nam Ka Man and Amelie Seure and Olson-Thorne in the back line, Hong Kong kept their heads and were dogged in pursuit of the ball. Results soon followed effort as Candy Cheng slipped several tackles to put Hong Kong on the board and send the match into halftime drawn at 5-all.

Olson Thorne collected her second try of the day shortly after the resumption of play when she showed great awareness to capitalize on some loose ball handling by the Chinese defence to score beneath the posts. Olson-Thorne’s try pushed Hong Kong out to a 12-5 lead after Poon’s conversion.

Colleen Tjosvold marked her return from injury suffered in the final Asian series event last year in Beijing with a late try to give Hong Kong a 19-10 victory after Poon’s conversion.Stephanie Cuvelier and Melody Li Nim Yan joined Tjosvold in marking successful comebacks from injury today, bolstering the strength of Hong Kong ahead of this year’s crucial Asian campaign, which builds up to the Olympic qualifiers in November.

Head coach Anna Richards said, “It was a good day and I’m really pleased with the girls. One of our focuses was getting off to a good start and we did that today. In Dublin we found ourselves chasing a lot of games in the second half but today we started well and were consistent. Even when we got down early like against China the girls stayed calm and kept working hard and we earned the results we achieved.”

The women will face newly promoted Uzbekistan in the second cup quarterfinal bracket tomorrow at 09.37. Japan, who were upended by Kazakhstan 12-10 on day one, will play Singapore in the first cup quarterfinal while Kazakhstan will play Sri Lanka and China will play Thailand in the other quarterfinals.

“We just need to keep playing our game, keep making our tackles and attacking the rucks and just keep our control. If we can go out tomorrow and do it all again like we did today we will be in a good place to advance. I’m actually excited at the prospect of playing Japan in the semis. If you want to win at this level or in the Olympic qualifier we are going to have to play the best in pressure situations and that will hopefully start tomorrow,” Richards added

The Hong Kong men’s team also eased its way through to the top of Pool A after beating both Philippines and UAE to book a spot in the cup quarter final tomorrow versus China at 11.05.

Wet conditions and the long lay-off since their last tournament in Tokyo in June showed in Hong Kong’s first match against the United Arab Emirates. The men took a while to click after being troubled by some old-school tactics from the UAE who kept the ball in tight amongst their burly forwards, holding Hong Kong to a 12-0 lead at half time.

A few tactical substitutions by coach Gareth Baber at the break saw Hong Kong bring its own bulk to bear with Nick Hewson coming on to immediate effect. Hewson collected a brace of tries in the second half to give Hong Kong a comfortable 24-0 margin at the final whistle.

The Asian champions then turned in a complete performance in their second match against the Philippines, who finished sixth in the standings last year. Hong Kong starved the Philippines of all possession and ran out 45-0 winners after a brace from Yiu Kam Shing and tries from captain Max Woodward, Mike Coverdale, Ben Rimene, Rowan Varty and U20s star Calvin Hunter on his Asian series debut.

The comprehensive win puts Hong Kong into the Cup quarter final versus China while 2014 Series runners-up South Korea face off against Kazakhstan. Sri Lanka (fourth placed in 2014) will play Malaysia while Japan will play the Philippines.

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*.