SPAIN END HONG KONG’S RUN IN SINGAPORE

15 Apr 2019

An improved outing on day two of the Singapore Sevens saw Hong Kong competitive with the Challenge Trophy teams, including sides like Wales and Spain, who are in danger of relegation at the end of the current Series, with Ireland, who beat Hong Kong in the qualifier final at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens last weekend, set to take their place next year.

After a disappointing outing on day one when Hong Kong lost all of its matches, the squad rebounded with a better effort yesterday in the Challenge Trophy quarter final against Wales.

Despite having little ball to work with in the first half, Hong Kong led the Welsh 12-0 early on after tries from Seb Brien and Salom Yiu Kam-shing. Wales scored shortly before half-time through Cai Devine to cross over on the last play of the first stanza and cut the lead to 12-7 at the break.

Alex McQueen put Hong Kong further ahead in the ninth minute with a well-taken try by the veteran to grow Hong Kong’s margin to 17-7 but Wales clawed back to within a try in the 11th minute after Joe Goodchild scored, eroding Hong Kong’s lead to 17-14.

A tense series of plays saw the action carried back and forth into both halves, but an unforced error crept into Hog Kong’s game with an errant throw-in at the line-out giving Wales possession late. They took advantage to score before the hooter to run home 19-17 winners.

That sent Hong Kong to the 13th place play-off against Spain who ran Hong Kong off the park with a 28 point first half before Hong Kong added tries in the second stanza through Cado Lee and Liam Herbert, with Jamie Hood adding the conversion to post 12 points. 

Spain could only muster one more try in the second half but Hong Kong had left it too late and never threatened to close the gap further as they bowed out of the tournament with a 35-12 loss.

Captain Max Woodward identified the many positives from the weekend saying, “Obviously, we were disappointed with how we showed on day one, so today was about putting that right and having a go at the teams. We did that pretty well in the first game and were a bit unlucky not to beat Wales.

“The second game we didn’t play our game again, we were a bit tentative and stood off them too much.

“At the end of the day, a team like us, wanting to get on the Series, we need to learn from these events and get better.”

For Woodward, the gap between Hong Kong and the Series sides has been identified.

“The gap is playing at that intensity. You know, however many tournaments Spain have had on the Series or in the European Grand Prix that runs in the summer. That is the big gap for us.

“The other gap is that belief that we can turn over teams when we come here. I don’t think it is quite there yet. For me, that is the key learning really. Physically, tactically and skill-wise we can always get better, but that is the key thing for me.”

Woodward also admits that it was hard for the team to get back up after last weekend’s loss in the final stages of the men’s Series qualifier.

“It is difficult. For us, we train all year to try and get on the Series and when that doesn’t happen, it is difficult for the boys to get back up and play the week after. To not get on the Series is really disappointing and to back it up again a week after that disappointment will always be tough.”

But Woodward and the team have their eyes on the ultimate prize this season, qualifying for the Olympics in November – a tournament this weekend’s battering will have helped them prepare for immensely. 

“A few boys are coming back from injuries now and at the end of the day, regardless of how we go in this tournament, it is relatively meaningless in the bigger scheme of things for us. It is always about learning no matter how or who we play and we have learned a lot this weekend.

“We have a great opportunity now to qualify for the Olympics and every single drop of energy has to go into that. If we can find where we were good and where we matched up with the teams here, and replicate that as far as possible, when we come up against the teams in Asia in November we will have a really good chance to do well.”

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