K-POPPED! HONG KONG MEN WIN DIALOG ASIA RUGBY SEVENS CUP, WOMEN CLAIM 3RD

22 Nov 2021

The Hong Kong Rugby Union’s men’s and women’s sevens teams had podium finishes at the Dialog Asia Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai.

Hong Kong’s men’s seven beat South Korea in the final 33-7, after having earlier booked their place in the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 in South Africa. A new look women’s seven responded well from the disappointment of losing to Japan in the semi-finals (missing out on a spot at the world cup) by finishing in third place with a 12-10 win over Kazakhstan.

The result for the women was more convincing then it reads with the SAR’s superb conditioning telling in the play-off as Kazakhstan flagged late.

Chloe Chan put Hong Kong on the board mid-way through the opening half with Rosie Wright adding the conversion to leap out 7-0. Kazakhstan replied with well-worked tries on opposing wings, both of which were hectored by Chong Ka-yan, keeping the scorers out of conversion range, which would prove crucial late. Kazakhstan led 10-7 at the break.

A clinical restart and committed kick chase to start the second half saw Hong Kong turn over the bigger Kazakhs on their own try-line with a score begging, but Nam Ka-man knocked the tap and go on, letting the opposition off the hook. Kazakhstan squandered that advantage immediately and Hong Kong soon brought the attack back to the five-metre line. Good work at the ruck produced quick ball for Melody Li who shuttled it out to Chong for the score in the corner. Wright could not convert but Hong Kong led 12- 10 with four minutes to go.

Some composed play helped see the game out with comparative ease as Hong Kong’s conditioning and class shone while Kazakhstan’s penalty count and poor decision-making mounted. The win puts Hong Kong as the third seeds at next year’s Asian Games, giving coach Iain Monaghan and his balanced team of veterans and debutants plenty of time to close the gaps on China and Japan, the only teams to have beaten Hong Kong this weekend.

In the men’s cup final it was a second meeting with South Korea in as many days, after a 14-7 win for Hong Kong opened pool play yesterday. Korea had built steam after that loss and improved throughout the weekend, beating Japan in their semi-final to book a spot in the world cup as well.

It was also another chance for the SAR to settle accounts after Korea’s sudden death win in the Olympic qualifiers two years ago. Hong Kong were all about that business as they compiled a composed and convincing victory.

 


Korea scored first with Hong Kong allowing only its second try of the weekend (Korea scored the first on day one as well). Max Denmark levelled with a try on five minutes, capping off a sustained attack where the squad’s collective patience was on full display, as they swung the defence side to side before opening space for Denmark’s finish.

From there on in it was one-way traffic as Hong Kong wreaked havoc at the restart with Russ Webb’s moon shot kicks allowing time for the onrushing forwards to get amongst the Koreans and put hand to ball. A fortunate bounce was well collected and well finished by Cado Lee who flashed 40 meters to score under the posts pushing the lead to 14-7.   Mike Coverdale scored after that, his try just reward for another weekend of uncomplaining graft and uncompromising tackling, as Hong Kong led 19-7.

Lee collected his brace in the second half with a well-weighted grubber kick behind Korea’s rush defence followed up with some controlled dribbling before he grabbed the try. Russ Webb used a similar ploy to break the defence again late with Piece Mackinlay-West the beneficiary of Webb’s offload to bring the score to 31-7 at the final whistle.

As night fell in Dubai, all was right in the Asian rugby world as Hong Kong lifted the cup and claimed the top seed for their gold medal defence at next year’s Asian Games.

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