Top two battle through
Defending champions Fortis New Zealand Metro and second seeds Aliens both came through tough pool games yesterday to reach the quarter-finals. Top-seeded Metro were held scoreless until the brink of half-time by a fiercely committed Irish Vikings side before breaking out for a 22-0 victory to top pool A.
Their Kiwi rivals Aliens had to withstand a determined second-half fightback by IBW Cardiff University to run out 22-12 winners in their pool H decider. The HSBC New Zealand Legends - with All Blacks icon Jonah Lomu in their line-up - also booked their spot in the last eight of the tournament at Hong Kong Football Club.
Metro manager Barry Gallagher, whose team opened with 73-0 victory over Glenmorangie Titans, was pleased to see his players given a rigorous workout by the Vikings.
'The first half was very tough,' he admitted. 'The Vikings set out to take the game to us and they did just that. We're pleased that we had a good, physical game against them because it showed our boys that we've got a bit of work to do to step it up on day two.'
Metro will play the Hill & Associates Hong Kong Barbarians in today's opening Cup quarter-final.
The Barbarians, who topped pool B after wins over Laxton PLA (40-0) and Playmore's Wanchai Wanderers (27-5), will be hampered by the loss of flyhalf Justin Temara, who suffered a serious knee injury in their opener. Aliens strolled to an 81-0 win over Japanese club Acorns but then found the Cardiff students far more stubborn. The Kiwis seemed to be cruising when they led 22-0 at half-time, but Cardiff came back at them with a pair of second-half tries. 'We always knew they were going to be difficult and they gained momentum as the game went on,' said Aliens coach Willie Los'e. 'But we took our foot off their throat a bit.'
Lomu - hugely popular in Hong Kong since his three wins in the Sevens from 1994-96 - was given a warm reception. He responded with a series of rampaging runs that required two or three tacklers to bring him down as he set up teammates for scores. The Legends won pool F, beating the Standard Chartered Bank Asian Cavaliers 36-5 and the Josef Seibel International Panthers 57-0.
The Sri Lankan squad arrived yesterday after managing to find seats on an airline out of Colombo. The team were due to fly Cathay Pacific, but the airline suspended its services on Monday night following the attack on an air force base.