Classy Robertson leads Hong Kong to Bangkok glory
A hat-trick of tries from playmaker Keith Robertson spurred Hong Kong to an emphatic 33-0 victory over Japan in the Cup final at the Bangkok Sevens and give the squad a huge shot in the arm as they build up to the all-important Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens next month.
Getting one over arch-rivals Japan is always sweet, even if they were not up to full strength, with their No1 team taking part in the HSBC Sevens World Series event in Las Vegas. Fielding a side comprising professional players drawn from the country's top league, Japan like Hong Kong had swept unbeaten into the final at the postponed third leg of last year's HSBC Asian Sevens Series. They met their match in Robertson and company.
Hong Kong led 23-0 at the break with Robertson (pictured) grabbing a brace and Anthony Haynes also touching down. Robertson completed his hat-trick in the second half and Ross Armour added the icing on the cake as Hong Kong wrapped up a comprehensive win. Hong Kong had earlier beaten Laos 43-0 in the quarter-finals and hosts Thailand 31-14 in the semis.
'It is a morale-boosting victory as we look ahead to the Hong Kong Sevens and the Japan Sevens next month,' said Hong Kong head coach Dai Rees. 'But we won't get too carried away. We know Japan were not at full strength but considering the depth in their squad, this was still a very competitive team. It was a great performance from us, however.'
The win in Bangkok was Hong Kong's second of the four-leg Asian series, having also won in Goa, India. Japan clinched the other two tournaments, both ranking events, in Shanghai and Borneo.
'It was a successful season when you consider we won two, finished runners-up once and third the other time to be ranked number two in Asia behind Japan. But the focus is now on what's coming up and this event has been a very useful indicator. We are six weeks away from the Hong Kong Sevens and I can say we are six weeks ahead of where we were last year as far as preparation is concerned this time,' Rees said.
With the International Rugby Board deciding that the Hong Kong Sevens would be a two-tier tournament - the top core teams playing for the series points and the second-tier sides contesting a separate competition to decide the three additional teams to become core teams in the world series in 2013 - the pressure is on Hong Kong.
With an eye on that, Rees decided to experiment in Bangkok and played a couple of players out of position - Alex McQueen at scrumhalf, Tom McQueen on the wing and Ally McClay at centre. The verdict was a categorical thumbs up.
'All these guys playing out of position have stepped up,' Rees said. 'Ally was good in midfield and complemented Rowan [Varty] superbly, while Alex was very good at his adopted scrumhalf position. His work rate was great, likewise Tom on the wing.
'Another player who was outstanding was Ross Armour at prop. Apart from them, the usual suspects performed. Keith [Robertson] was superb at flyhalf. It was a great all-round performance and what I was really pleased with was that the commitment and intensity was high from everyone.'
We are six weeks away from the Hong Kong Sevens and ... six weeks ahead of where we were last year Hong Kong head coach Dai Rees