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Asian Youth Games: Hong Kong, Japan win golds on rugby sevens’ debut

Hong Kong win the boys' rugby sevens final. Photo: Hong Kong Rugby.

Hong Kong win the boys’ rugby sevens final. Photo: Hong Kong Rugby.

August 20, 2013: Hong Kong beat Thailand 31-12 in the boys’ final of the rugby sevens competition at the Asian Youth Games in Nanjing, where the sport is making its competition debut ahead of its eventual inclusion in the 2016 Olympics.


Oscar Kurten collected a brace in the final, with Ron Siew, Hugo Chui and Cameron Smith adding tries to complete Hong Kong’s victory at the new Youth Olympic Sports Park. Hong Kong had earlier trailed 12-0 to Japan at half-time of their semi-final before winning 19-12 with tries from Murray Christie, Craig Kurten and Siew.


Japan won the girls’ U18 event, fighting back from 14-0 down at half-time to win 28-14 against a China team roared on by a frenzied home crowd. Hong Kong won the bronze after beating Thailand 21-5 in the third-place playoff.


Local fans cheer on China in the girls' rugby sevens final. Photo: OCA.

Local fans cheer on China in the girls’ rugby sevens final. Photo: OCA.

The boys’ gold and girls’ bronze were the first medals for Hong Kong Rugby at a multi-sports event since sevens was admitted into the city’s Sports Institute as part of the elite structure in April.


Dai Rees, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union’s Head of Performance and Coaching, hailed the performance of the boys’ squad, most of whose members were also part of the team that won the inaugural Asian Schools Sevens last month.


“Having medalled at the Asian Youth Games and winning the Asian Schools Sevens in July has resulted in us achieving two important junior results needed as we bid for renewal of our Sports Institute status. With the boys claiming gold and the girls taking bronze, we had a fantastic tournament and it bodes well for the future,” Rees said.


“For the boys to come back from a 12-point deficit against Japan at half-time is a great achievement and full credit to coaches Fan Shun Kei, Kane Jury and the squad for reaching the final undefeated. This shows we’re gradually building a reservoir of talent.”


Nearly 30 junior players will now be eligible for funding under the Sports Institute’s junior squad programme and the HKRFU will assess the potential of the players before announcing its full and part-time scholarship athletes.


ARFU President praises rugby sevens debut

20130819_AdisakSQThe Asian Youth Games is serving two purposes in Nanjing, as both the OCA’s second festival of youth sport, culture and education, and also a testing ground for the IOC’s second Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing next August.


The inaugural rugby sevens competition passed its test with flying colours, with the pitch remaining in fine condition despite an early-evening thunderstorm that forced a halt in proceedings and put the timetable 40 minutes behind schedule. Furthermore, the spectators were absorbed by the high-paced, end-to-end drama of seven-a-side rugby.


Adisak Hemyoo, President of the Asian Rugby Football Union, believes inclusion in the Asian Youth Games is a big step forward for the sport.


“I think the Asian Youth Games and the Youth Olympic Games next year are very important because the young boys and young girls have the chance to experience international competition,” the Thai said.


“These are not commercial games. They are developing the players for the future and this can only be good for all the sports. You can see the players are very excited to be here, and they can learn about the game. It is also very important for every union to prepare a new generation of players at international level.”


With rugby sevens on the sports programme for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the ARFU President is confident the Brazilians will embrace the code.


“Brazilian people love sport very much, not only soccer. The country is sports-mad,” Adisak said. “To play rugby sevens, you need to be strong, very fit and have good technique. The game is only 14 minutes long so it’s very exciting to see who is going to be the winner.”


Adisak has visited Brazil several times on business and feels the Brazilians and Thais share certain characteristics.


“The Brazilian people are like Thai people. They are friendly and love music and sport. When they watch rugby sevens they will love it.”


- Report includes contributions from HKRFU and OCA

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