Nervy start, but HK too strong for Malaysia
The first step towards winning a historic team gold medal was a bit nervy, but Hong Kong' rugby sevens team were still too strong for Malaysia, easing to a comfortable 38-10 win in their opening pool game yesterday.
A brace of tries from Rowan Varty, Anthony Haynes and Salom Yiu Kam-shing gave Hong Kong what in the end was a comfortable scoreline. But the Mark Wright-led team will know they will have to tighten up their act when the knockout stages get under way tomorrow.
'It was a good win. Yes, there were a few mistakes but we tend to start like that and to be fair to Malaysia, they put us under pressure,' Hong Kong head coach Dai Rees said.
Varty settled nerves in front of a large crowd at the Guangzhou University Town main stadium when he scored the first of Hong Kong's six tries, bursting down the middle. Haynes added a second to lead 14-0.
But it wasn't all a one-way street. Hong Kong were starved of possession, and also lost two of their own lineouts. The trouble at the set pieces was highlighted when from a scrum, Malaysia scored from a blindside break, catching the defence napping.
Hong Kong led 14-5 at half-time and the result was put beyond doubt when Haynes and Varty completed their double soon after the break. Yiu then got into the try-scoring picture.
Conceding two tries will be a cause for concern for Hong Kong, who will today continue to fine-tune their game against Thailand, Mongolia and Japan in pool play. It will be a useful day 'to get our game in order', Rees said. But a win over Japan, who began with a 55-0 romp past Mongolia, will also be crucial in that Hong Kong will then avoid meeting South Korea in the semi-finals if everything goes according to the form book in the other pool.
'My main concern is that we get past the first two days without picking up any injuries. We will have to use the squad wisely,' Rees said.
In the other pool, South Korea and China also got off to good starts. The Koreans defeated India 43-5, while China got the better of Sri Lanka 26-5.
Defending gold medallists Japan, fielding a number of 15-a-side internationals including winger Koji Wada, ran in nine tries past a clueless Mongolia. Japan coach and former 15s scrumhalf Wataru Murata said: 'Our goal is definitely to get the gold but Hong Kong is going to be our biggest challenge.'