Rugby: Hong Kong secure second on Asian Sevens Series
- Updated: October 13, 2015
October 13, 2015: Hong Kong reached their first final of this year’s Asia Rugby Sevens Series, losing a tough encounter against Japan 29-22 in Colombo to claim second place in the standings.
After losing to hosts China in the quarter-finals of the opening tournament in Qingdao, Hong Kong replied strongly in the remaining events, taking bronze in Thailand and silver in Sri Lanka.
Given historical form, the Colombo final could be a preview of the battle for Asia’s one guaranteed place in the men’s competition at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro when rugby sevens make its Olympic debut.
The sole qualification tournament for the men’s teams, the Asia Rugby Sevens Qualifier, will be held in Hong Kong on November 7-8. The women’s event will feature a two-leg qualification series starting at the Hong Kong event and finishing with a second tournament in Tokyo later in the same month.
The formbook was restored in the men’s competition in Sri Lanka, with Hong Kong and Japan claiming their customary top two spots in the region. South Korea and Sri Lanka are both close, with China also dangerous, but lacked the consistency to break the stranglehold of the top two.
Hong Kong are amassing solid momentum towards the first ever Asian Olympic qualifier for Rugby Sevens to be held in the SAR, with a goal of becoming the first Hong Kong team sport to qualify for the Olympics in 50 years.
Hong Kong coach Gareth Baber said: “I was very pleased with the performance we put in this weekend and on the Series as a whole. We dropped that game in China, but the players know what they needed to do and were very mindful of getting better game by game, which we have done.
“We wanted to use the series as a way to develop our game and get some of the emerging players some game time, but also to get ourselves into a good position for the Qualifiers at home in November. I think we have done that. We have had a couple of good results and are now in the position we want to be in.
“It is a tight competition with Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka and China all pushing for positions, but I think we are satisfied with what we have achieved on the series. We have had two games against Japan, with the difference being two tries. We will have one more tournament to build up at the Central Coast in Australia and then come back for two weeks of preparation for the Olympic qualifier.”
Keith Robertson’s pairing with flyhalf Jamie Hood was one of the highlights of the team’s recent showings. “Keith did well,” said Baber. “It was nice to see him back in action, although personally I haven’t seen that much of him in a match setting because of his injuries. People in Hong Kong know what Keith can add.
“He has an ability on a sevens pitch that other players don’t and he had a lot of time on the ball this weekend and created space well, even nipping a few tries for us when we needed them. Emotionally he is very calm and he knows how to play in those pressure situations.”
Hong Kong will travel to Australia to play in the Central Coast Sevens on October 24-25.
Source: Hong Kong Rugby (www.hkrugby.com); Editing by SportAsia