Hong Kong go so close, but lose out in injury time
Hong Kong suffered a bitter defeat in the final of the Shanghai Sevens last night, giving away a 12-point lead to lose to South Korea in sudden-death injury time.
Dai Rees' side went into the game having conceded only one try in the tournament and following excellent wins earlier yesterday over Thailand (40-0) and Japan (26-0), and were confident of taking the defending champions' title.
They seemed set fair after Tom McQueen and Keith Robertson scored early touchdowns to establish a 10-0 lead in a ferociously contested opening period.
Though South Korea fought back through Kim Gwong-min in the second half, another touchdown by captain Rowan Varty made it 17-5 with a quarter of the game to go, but Yui Kam-shing's sin-binning gave Korea hope - and another try.
After levelling seconds from full-time they stole the win in sudden death through Kim Gwong-min - his hat-trick - following a turnover Rees felt was a foul.
'It's tough to handle, this contact-area decision-making by the referees,' said the coach.
'He allowed side entry at the contact area a lot, but we should have been mature enough to have won the game within normal time.
'Rowan could have had a try when he kicked on and they've knocked it dead deliberately over the goal line - it should have been a penalty five metres out to us, but they've got a drop-out on their own 22 and scored down the other end.
'It's critical decisions and it just frustrates me. I don't want to go on about the ref too much but I just feel a bit hard done by.'
Robertson blamed himself having missed a couple of conversions, but was being harsh after a superb eight-try contribution over the weekend.
'It's pretty sore,' he said. 'I know if I had made one of my kicks earlier we would have won and I back myself to make most of my kicks. When it's into extra time it's kind of 50-50 and we had the ball and turned it over.
'I was the guy going in as the dummy half, trying to pull it out, I can't blame them, they put a hand in and knocked it loose. They got the ball back, that's what they're trying to do, I can't blame the ref or them, but it's unfortunate for us.'
After the pain subsides, Hong Kong can reflect on an impressive tournament, with Robertson, McQueen, Varty, Ant Haynes and Mark Goosen standouts.
They head to Kota Kinabalu at the end of next month for the next stop on the HSBC Asian Sevens Series, but look like being without forward Pale Tauti, who will have a scan this week amid fears he has damaged a knee anterior cruciate ligament.
'We'll learn a lot by it,' added Rees. 'We finished fifth here last year, now two, so hopefully we'll come back and perform well in Borneo to finish number one in Asia.
'The boys came into the start of this season looking their old selves. Keith was outstanding, there were some great performances by Mark Goosen coming back into his first sevens tournament [after two years out], and Rowan and Ant Haynes were also superb.
'We did enough to win the trophy. I'm just bitterly disappointed we've come away with second place.'
Meanwhile, Hong Kong's women lost 34-0 to China and 14-10 to Thailand to finish bottom of the four-team mini tournament having lost all their games.
An impressive China beat Kazakhstan in the final to gain revenge for their Asian Games final defeat.