Hong Kong Sevens

Rain fails to dampen enthusiasm for first Fives

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 March, 2011, 12:00am

The suntan lotion stall had a quiet day, but the cold, wet weather failed to dampen the enthusiasm for the newest event yesterday in the run-up to next weekend's Hong Kong Sevens.

Despite the rain and sodden conditions, the opening day of the inaugural Air Asia Beach Fives at Repulse Bay had a carnival atmosphere with stalls and games for the public - as well as a few big names from yesteryear parading their skills.

Wallaby legend David Campese and ex-All Blacks star Christian Cullen, both part of the Asia Pacific Barbarians at this week's Hong Kong Football Club Tens, took part in a session with children before the serious action began with more than 200 players turning out.

'It was a real novelty playing rugby at Repulse Bay for the first time,' said Erin Emrick of the Lost and Found team. 'The setting was awesome and the weather was nothing that could stop Hongkongers coming out and being a part of it. It was great fun supporting and being a part of a new event,' Emrick said.

Ally Maclay, of Linklaters JB Allstars, said: 'Even though the weather was a little bit wet in the morning, we hardly noticed it. It was something really different and more like a beach party.

'The standard of rugby was higher than I expected and it was a good alternative to what we normally play here. The forecast is good for [today] so I am looking forward to it.'

One forlorn bystander was former Hong Kong sevens captain Mark Wright. An operation to a troubled shoulder forced Wright out of the picture for next weekend's showpiece. 'I'm here to watch my fianc?play rugby. This looks like fun,' said Wright.

Some 32 teams (24 for men and eight for women) made up of amateur enthusiasts played 20-minute games.

It was not all fun for the organisers, who shipped in fine sand from China so the tournament could go ahead. Brought in at a cost of HK$300,000, organisers who found the original sand at Repulse Bay too coarse face the prospect of having to remove it at the end of play today - if the district council feels the foreign sand does not blend in.

But as far as Alex Brazendale, tournament director, is concerned, he wants the sun out today. 'We had a great first day for a brand new event - hundreds of people playing rugby and loads of spectators. There is so much to do and I would really encourage people to come and be a part of the fun,' Brazendale said.