Hong Kong delivered a loud and clear message that they are deserving of more opportunities to play in the HSBC Sevens World Series next season after finishing in the top 12 at the Japan Sevens in Tokyo yesterday.
Hong Kong bowed out to France in the Bowl semi-finals, losing 26-15, but proved they could hold their own among the top teams after defeating Russia 17-12 in the quarter-finals to once again underline their status as one of the best teams in Asia.
It left Hong Kong coach Dai Rees hungering for more, as he called on the International Rugby Board to give his emerging side more chances to appear in the world series next season.
'We would like to have the chance to play in at least three tournaments next season. We have proved here that we can compete with the best by finishing in the top 12 in a 16-team tournament for the first time,' Rees said. Hong Kong finished ahead of core teams Scotland and Kenya, as well as Asian rivals Japan, who have played in four events on the world series this season.
Hong Kong failed to win one of three core-team berths at the Hong Kong Sevens after they were dealt a cruel blow when playmaker Keith Robertson was red-carded in the opening minute of a crucial encounter against Japan. Robertson served a three-match ban, missing the opening day's play in Tokyo, where Hong Kong lost narrowly to Australia - the eventual Cup champions - and the United States, but were well beaten by New Zealand.
It left them in the Bowl competition, for teams placed nine to 12, and first up yesterday were Russia. A brace of tries by second-half replacement Tom McQueen saw off the Russians in the quarter-finals.
'Coming from behind showed our resilience and I am pleased that our tactical decision to bring Tom on in the second half to try to stretch the big Russian defence paid off,' Rees said.
The defeat by France in the semi-finals was disappointing but Hong Kong will take encouragement from the performance as the French were Cup finalists at the Dubai Sevens earlier in the season. France went on to win the Bowl final, defeating the United States 17-12.
'It is disappointing losing to France but I can't fault the effort given over the build-up period to the Hong Kong Sevens and the way we have played this weekend in Tokyo,' Rees said.
'I hope the people who matter have taken into account our performances. We have sent out the message that we deserve more opportunities.
'Only by playing against the top teams regularly can we hope to continue to develop and I would like to think we have done that in the last two to three years. Our focus now will be on finishing in the top of the Asian Sevens Series and most importantly qualifying for the World Cup Sevens in Moscow next year,' Rees added.
Meanwhile, Australia won their first tournament this season when they defeated Samoa 28-26 in a thrilling Cup final.
The Kiwis won the third-place play-off, beating England 24-17 to continue to lead the overall standings. Fiji, winners of the Hong Kong Sevens, won the Plate final, defeating South Africa 14-10.