Debutant teenager Chris Maize looked the part yesterday as Hong Kong confidently moved towards their goal of playing for the first time at the China National Games this summer, winning all three games on the opening day of the qualifying tournament in Shanghai.
Maize, 18, drafted in due to the ineligibility of a number of senior forwards "looked comfortable" as Hong Kong finished as the top team in the ranking rounds and ensured they have an easy opponent in the quarter-finals today.
Hong Kong will meet the number-eight ranked side in the 10-team qualifiers today (the bottom two teams are eliminated) with coach Dai Rees confident of progressing into the semis and claiming one of the five places for the Games in Shenyang, Liaoning province, in September.
"I would think we should be able to beat the number eight team, especially after the way we played today," Rees said. "The guys look sharp and among the new faces, Chris [Maize] had a good day, looking comfortable in his role."
Hong Kong were pushed closest in the opening game by Beijing, winning 17-12, before turning on the pace and power with wins over Shandong (35-5) and Mongolia (45-0). Beijing, coached by former captain Johnny Zhang Zhiqiang, were virtually the China national team.
"It was a tight game and we played well, keeping our composure. They scored at the end to make the scoreline look close but we had it under control," Rees said.
Winger Salom Yiu Kam-shing scored a brace against Beijing and led the try-scoring stakes, closely followed by Tom McQueen, who was tried at centre with skipper Rowan Varty being rested for the last two games after a hectic season.
"While the main goal is to qualify for the National Games we will be aiming to win this competition," said Rees.
Rugby sevens is part of the China National Games for the first time with the sport now in the Olympics. Only Olympic sports are included in the Games held every four years.