Depleted Hong Kong Sevens squad loses in final seconds to Japan
It was an all-too-familiar tale for Hong Kong, who lost a gripping final 14-10 to Japan after being reduced to six men at the Malaysia Sevens yesterday.
Hong Kong playmaker Jamie Hood was sin-binned with two minutes remaining in the Cup final of the first leg of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series in Kuala Lumpur and was badly missed.
Not only were Hong Kong down in numbers hanging on to a 10-7 lead, they also lost their key lineout jumper. Seconds from the end a Hong Kong lineout five metres from the Japan try-line was lost and the ball was turned over, resulting in the breakaway winning try.
"I guess you could say it is the same-old, same-old," said disappointed coach Alex Gibbs. "Once again we have lost to Japan and once again with six men on the pitch. But there are plenty of positives we can take home from this result, the main thing is that we have blooded more players and increased the strength in depth of our squad."
Hong Kong were missing most of their senior players, who are on duty with the main squad at the China National Games in Shenyang. The sevens competition there starts today.
But despite fielding a number of newcomers, Hong Kong made it easily to the Cup final after disposing of Taiwan (29-10) and Sri Lanka (29-12) in the quarter-finals and semi-finals.
Lying in wait were old foes Japan, still hurting after losing their Asian sevens crown to Hong Kong last season. With the pitch turned into a rice paddy - play was suspended for more than an hour due to a thunderstorm - it was a battle of attrition.
"Jamie was unfortunate to be yellow-carded," said Gibbs. "He went for a tackle and wrapped his arms around the Japanese player who passed, then Jamie was deemed to have deliberately knocked on.
"But finishing second is still a great result considering the side we brought. The experienced players led the way but the new guys stood up and were counted and this will help us hugely in the future."
Forwards Nick Hewson and Lee Jones had a huge tournament as did Tom McQueen, the tournament's top try-scorer with seven. "We achieved our target of reaching the final. This was the goal with our main squad playing in China. But it would have been nice to finish with a win," said Gibbs.