Hong Kong push sevens big boys all the way
Hong Kong proved they are not out of place in the company of the big boys when they pushed core teams Australia and the United States to the limit at a rainy and windswept Japan Sevens in Tokyo yesterday.
Despite losing all three games on the opening day - the third being a 40-0 loss to top seeds New Zealand - Hong Kong can take satisfaction from two stirring performances, going down 17-14 to Australia and 21-19 to the United States, the Americans snatching victory by scoring from the final play of the match, and well after the hooter had sounded.
'We showed we can live with the top teams. It was a very encouraging performance and we have everything to play for [today], when we come up against Russia in the Bowl quarter-finals,' Hong Kong coach Dai Rees said.
Skipper Rowan Varty led from the front, scoring three tries, including a brace against the US. But once again everyone put their hands up with Rees singling out Tom McQueen, Jamie Hood - filling in for playmaker Keith Robertson who had to sit out due to a three-match ban incurred last Sunday at the Hong Kong Sevens - Kwok Ka-chun and Salom Yiu Kam-shing for special praise.
While it was a well-oiled performance against the Australians, Hong Kong's display against HSBC Sevens World Series leaders New Zealand was error-strewn as they turned over too much possession.
'In conditions like this we are not going to be able to move the ball around as we normally like to, so the emphasis becomes more on the contact area. New Zealand are a physical team and we made too many individual errors that led to conceding three or four tries we shouldn't have,' Rees said.
'If you look at the match against Australia, we didn't concede the errors we did against New Zealand. As a result we ended up being in with a chance in a three-point match.'
In their final match of the day, Hong Kong jumped to an early 12-0 lead through tries to Varty and flyhalf Hood with a conversion added by Anthony Haynes. The US replied with a couple of tries early in the second half to edge ahead 14-12. Varty added his second try of the match, which was converted by Hood, to push Hong Kong into the lead at 19-14. But at the final hooter, the US had possession and made the most of it to score the winning try.
'We have always said that for us this weekend is about our performance on day two.
'Physically we are in good shape without any injuries and we will have a fresh Keith Robertson back. Considering the day's tight results against the top teams in the series, I think we are in very good shape for the rest of the tournament,' Rees added.