MEN’S SEVEN QUALIFY FOR 8TH WORLD CUP 7S, WOMEN PIPPED BY JAPAN

22 Nov 2021


The Hong Kong Rugby Union men’s sevens team qualified for its eighth straight Rugby World Cup Sevens after beating China 24-0 in the semi final of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai. Hong Kong have appeared at every sevens world cup since the first in 1993 in Edinburgh. As a winning semi-finalist, Hong Kong join South Korea who beat Japan in the other semi final 21-14, next year in South Africa.

With World Cup spots decided, the two teams now face off in the final overnight (00.48) with Asian Games seeding on the line and another in a series of titanic matches between the two after Korea pipped Hong Kong for a spot at the Tokyo Olympics. Hong Kong beat Korea in the opening match in Dubai, 14-7.

It was another in a line of defensive master classes for Hong Kong as the SAR pitched its fourth shutout in as many games, conceding just seven points on the weekend ahead of the final.

Hong Kong controlled matters from the outset with a 90-second series of attacks stretching the China defence from side to side and bringing the ball to their 22-metre line before the referee pinged Hong Kong for sealing at the ruck. Two more penalties followed in quick succession, helping China start a long march up field.   The SAR’s defence was smothering and scrumhalf Lee Ka-to produced a great steal on the deck to start an attack he would also help finish in the far corner with a nice outlet pass for wing Max Denmark who scored to put Hong Kong ahead 7-0 after Russ Webb’s conversion.

Later in the half, Demark gave Hong Kong breathing space with a 60-metre effort out wide, turning the last defender to grow the lead to 12-nil at the break. Hong Kong never looked back in the second half putting China away with a late brace of tries to Russell Webb and Harry Sayers as time expired, winning 24-0.

“We are chuffed to bits to qualify for the Rugby World Cup Sevens obviously. Having been to every one there is a fair bit of pressure around that and all 12 of the boys did exceptionally well,” said head coach Paul John after the win over China, which he labelled as important for the entire sevens programme at home.

“It is an important win for our sevens programme. Now there is an awful lot to look forward to for all of the guys in the squad, both here and back at home, with the Asian Games and the Rugby World Cup on in 2022,” added John.

But the work is not done yet and John is looking forward to the final: “It was a nervy start for both teams yesterday and everyone was very, very cautious.

 

 

“Korea have gotten better every game since then, and they are dangerous, so we need to come up with another team effort. I think it will be a very good final,” John said.

Hong Kong’s women’s sevens hopes of an appearance at the short-form world championship were dashed after a disheartening 29-0 loss to Japan in the semi-final. Hong Kong advance to the third/fourth play-off against Kazakhstan at 23.42 and will refocus on the task at hand, and their primary goal ahead of the tournament - securing the top seed possible at the Asian Games.

The girls in blue got off to a hot start against Japan driving play down to the Japanese sticks from kick-off. Japan’s defence held however, and an unforced error allowed them to spring their attack from deep. Japan quickly brought play to halfway where both teams contested the neutral zone fiercely. Some thumping tackling by the Hong Kong defence dislodged the ball, but a fortunate bounce for Japan led to their first try through Marin Kajiki in the corner.

Hong Kong squandered the restart chance, failing to make 10 metres on the kick and allowing Japan to stage its attack, which eventually produced a second score for Kajiki, again in the left corner, to push the gap to 10-0.

With halftime approaching there was a sense that Hong Kong needed the next score to keep in it. It nearly came from Chong Ka-yan after a penalty gave Hong Kong possession in midfield. With her typical motor, Chong carried the attack deep into Japan’s half but was isolated from her support and turned the ball over. Japan were quick with their advantage, producing a too easy try on the right side as Hong Kong heads began to fall with the deficit growing to 17 points after seven minutes.

Hong Kong’s best attacking chance of the final stanza came to nought with a good cover defence forcing the knock-on from Gabriella Rivers on the 22-metre line. A late 80-metre try from Japan added insult to injury and sent Hong Kong back to the sheds to refocus on a crucial third/fourth place play-off against Kazakhstan, who lost to China 19-24, with Asian Games seeds at stake.

It was a less than ideal finish for the team after performing positively on day one and integrating three new players into the squad. That lack of experience told in the games against China and Japan, but Hong Kong had issued some positive warnings to the field about what will lay in store when the Asian rugby calendar returns to normal.

SUBSCRIBE TO

OUR NEWSLETTER