HK beats China for Shanghai Sevens Cup
Rees' team grab first ranking title in two years, lifting their chances in race for World Cup spot
Playmaker Jamie Hood stepped out of the slipstream of aspiring pilot Keith Robertson as he engineered Hong Kong's march to Cup glory at the Shanghai Sevens yesterday. It was Hong Kong's first ranking title in two years on the Asian circuit.
Hong Kong, who had looked solid all weekend at the Yuanshen Stadium, capped a fine performance by crushing hosts China 40-10 in the Cup final to lift the second leg of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series and move into top spot in the rankings.
The unbeaten run to the title was led by flyhalf Hood, who rounded off a superb tournament by scoring 18 points in the final. Hood, who in the past has played second fiddle to Robertson, was rewarded for his efforts by being named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
"This is a great result. Not only have we won our first ranking event in two years, but we have also seen Jamie slotting in superbly into the shoes of our magician Keith Robertson. Jamie has proved that we can look past Keith and move on confidently," said Hong Kong coach Dai Rees.
Hong Kong had arrived in Shanghai hoping to build depth in key positions as they look towards November's Asian qualifiers for next year's Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow. With Robertson ruled out for the next 18 months as he goes in hunt of a pilot's licence, Rees drafted in Valley flyhalf Ben Rimene as understudy to Hood.
Rimene lived up to his promise as he scored 22 points, including two tries, in the opening game yesterday, the last pool match against United Arab Emirates as Hong Kong began the day on fire with a 42-0 victory. The Rowan Varty-led side were unstoppable as they swept aside Taiwan 40-7 in the semi-finals, Alex McQueen scoring a brace of tries, before knocking out China with a six-try romp including a brace each from Hood and Lee Jones.
"We are close to achieving the goal we set out with at the start of the campaign which is to be ranked in the top two in Asia as this would help our seeding in the World Cup qualifiers," Rees said. "If we finish in the top four in Mumbai [third leg next month] we will have done this."
But Hong Kong will be eyeing the No 1 slot, a position they occupy now with reigning Asian champions Japan missing in action in Shanghai due to political tensions between Beijing and Tokyo over the Diaoyus dispute.
Japan will return for the third leg in Mumbai intent on defending their Asian crown. To do that they will have to win it, but will face a strong challenge from Hong Kong, who proved in Shanghai that they are ready to step up from No 2.