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Rugby: Hong Kong bag Beijing leg to secure Asian Sevens Series

Hong Kong won the Asian Sevens Series for the second time in three years after winning all three legs. Photos: Kenji Demura/RJP.

Hong Kong lifted the ARFU Asian Sevens Series trophy for the second time in three years after completing a clean sweep of all three legs with victory in Beijing on Sunday. Photos: Kenji Demura/RJP.

October 19, 2014: Hong Kong were crowned this year’s ARFU Asian Sevens Series champions after beating South Korea 36-19 in the final of the third and final leg in Beijing on Sunday.

 

Two tries each from Rowan Varty and Nick Hewson, plus tries from Lee Jones and skipper Jamie Hood, paved the way for a comfortable match made easier in the second half when Korea were reduced to six men after a sin-bin.

 

Hong Kong were favourites to take the Asian title after winning the opening legs in Hong Kong and in Malaysia, going on to finish the season unbeaten and wrestle the title back from Japan, having also won the series in 2012.

 

Hong Kong head coach Gareth Baber had overseen disappointment in HSBC Sevens World Series qualifying in March and a loss to Japan in the Asian Games final last month, but was delighted that his team completely dominated the ARFU series.

 

“We have continued the momentum that we started at the beginning of the series in Hong Kong and we have come away with three tournament wins and we are very happy with that,” Baber said.

 

“The goal that we set ourselves was to be number one in Asia and progress as a squad and force our way into contention to play in as many competitive tournaments as we can. The Asian Sevens Series was one of those goals and it was certainly one of our goals to be at the top of that tree when the final came around.”

 

Hong Kong’s Rowan Varty breaks through against South Korea in the Beijing final.

Hong Kong’s Rowan Varty breaks through against South Korea in the Beijing final.

Hong Kong and South Korea, who finished second in the overall standings, will also qualify for next year’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, which will again host a World Series qualifying tournament to decide a core team for the 2015-16 season.

 

Japan defeated Sri Lanka 24-19 to finish third in Beijing, having earlier lost to South Korea in the semi-finals. Japan also finished third in the series behind Hong Kong and South Korea.

 

Korea captain Lee Yong-seung scored the match-winning try against Japan after the hooter had sounded to give his young team a fantastic 24-21 victory. Korea, fielding a side mostly drawn from the universities, trailed 14-7 at half-time and then 21-14 before two late tries helped them progress to their second Cup final in the three-leg series.

 

Lee was superb as he dotted down from a last-gasp move to give the Koreans their second win over Japan in the series, having also beaten them in the semis in Hong Kong.

 

Japan had looked a shadow of the team that won the gold medal at the Asian Games in Incheon. Asia’s traditional rugby powerhouse had made wholesale changes ahead of Beijing, bringing in 11 players, and the failure to gel proved costl. Tomohiro Segawa’s side only just squeezed past Kazakhstan 14-12 in the quarter-finals, continuing their stuttering run from the first day’s pool matches when they had two tight wins over the Philippines (21-19) and China (26-14).

 

Hong Kong had earlier beaten Sri Lanka 26-0 in the other semi, having demolished Thailand 55-0 in the quarters. A hat-trick from barnstorming forward Max Woodward was enough to take care of Sri Lanka, who never really looked like they could match Hong Kong in the contact areas.

 

China won the women’s two-leg Asian Sevens Series despite losing to Japan in the Beijing final.

China won the women’s two-leg Asian Sevens Series despite losing to Japan in the Beijing final.

In the women’s competition, Japan defeated China 24-19 to win their first tournament of the tw0-leg series. Japan had also defeated China in the preliminary round and a second loss could be a sign of a slight shift in power in the women’s game.

 

“We are very happy,” Japan coach Akane Kagawa said. “This season has been very difficult for us and we had many difficult situations this season, but we were hungry to win this tournament.

 

“Our players are not very big physically compared to the other teams, but we have a great team spirit and a great team ethic. Our strength this weekend has been playing rugby as a team and this was our best rugby this year.”

 

China, who last month qualified as a core team on the 2014-15 IRB Women’s Sevens World Series, had their work cut out to beat Kazakhstan in the semi-finals. China led 10-0 at half-time, but needed a try from the last play of the match to secure a 17-14 victory.

 

Japan booked their berth in the final with a 17-0 victory over Hong Kong, who later enjoyed a 14-12 win over Kazakhstan in the third-place playoff.

 

“It was a fantastic game,” said Hong Kong coach Anna Richards. “We started really well and then we let them back in from our mistakes, but the girls realised what they were doing and I thought they played exceptionally well this weekend. They really put it out there and gave it their all, and I couldn’t be happier with our final result.”

 

Despite being pipped in their home final, China’s earlier win in Hong Kong and their runners-up finish in Beijing helped them win the two-leg series. Japan finished level with Hong Kong in the table, but edged them into second based on a superior points difference in matches between the two sides throughout the series.

 

Hong Kong’s Tom McQueen and Jamie Hood finish at the top of the men’s scoring table for the series. Hood finished with 113 points from 39 conversions and seven tries, while McQueen scored 19 tries over three tournaments to finish with 95 points. Korea flyhalf Oh Youn-hyung was third with 76 points from four tries and 28 conversions.

 

For Beijing Sevens results, visit: www.asian5nations.com/node/970

 

For Asian Sevens Series standings, visit: www.asian5nations.com/a7s-series-table

 

Source: Asian Sevens Series (www.asian5nations.com/asian-7-series); Editing by SportAsia

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