Hong Kong qualify for China National Games, but coach Dai Rees rues team's 'arrogance'

Team finish third in National Games qualifier after slip against eventual champions Beijing

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 1:41am

The Hong Kong men's sevens team qualified for this summer's China National Games but their "arrogance" cost them the chance to emerge as champions at the 10-team qualifying tournament in Shanghai yesterday.

A 14-12 loss to Beijing in the semi-finals was put down to over-confidence by head coach Dai Rees, who said the team's belief that they only had to turn up to win had proved their downfall.

"We lost through pure arrogance. We were up against a very good side, virtually the China national team, but we were complacent and took it lightly. This is a good reminder of the pitfalls we can face in September in our gold medal campaign," Rees said.

Beijing, coached by former national captain Johnny Zhang Zhiqiang, played with passion and pride to avenge the 17-12 loss to Hong Kong in the preliminary pool competition on Saturday.

They are the top provincial team in China, and along with the PLA are leading candidates for the gold medal at the National Games in Shenyang, Liaoning province, in September.

Yesterday, Beijing went on to win the qualifying tournament, beating Shandong 46-19 in the final, while Hong Kong beat the PLA 26-10 in the third-place play-off.

Hong Kong had earlier clinched their berth at the National Games by hammering Xinjiang 65-0 in the quarter-finals. "We did what we came to do which was to qualify for the National Games. But we also wanted to win this tournament and I'm disappointed we lost our way. This is a good kick up the backside for us," Rees said.

Missed tackles and kicking crucial possession away were key factors in the defeat. Rees also said the absence of a playmaker in the team had proved costly. Regular flyhalves Jamie Hood and Ben Rimene were both ineligible as they do not have a Hong Kong permanent ID card.

Both the Hong Kong men's and women's teams have now qualified for the National Games where rugby sevens is a medal sport for the first time. Only Olympic sports are played at the quadrennial provincial jamboree. Playing in these games will be a further boost for rugby sevens, which in April became an elite discipline at the Hong Kong Sports Institute.