Asian Games warning shot heard loud and clear by rivals
Let’s get ready to rumble, or as was the case last weekend, play rugby.
Robbie McRobbie should perhaps consider giving up his job at the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union and become a full-time boxing ring announcer as he set the tone for Hong Kong’s first Asian Sevens Series tournament.
And from the red corner, both Hong Kong teams came out punching with the men landing a knockout blow to win the first leg of the series, while the women were equally ferocious making their first Cup final.
The results bode well for our Asian Games campaign next month in Incheon, South Korea. It will also have put a target on our backs – one which men’s head coach Gareth Baber was quite happy to paint.
Baber says he wants the opposition to sit up and take notice of Hong Kong. And they will certainly have done that after the unbeaten run which ended in a fantastic 40-0 rout of South Korea in the final.
Hong Kong battled it out in all four legs of the Cup final last year with Japan winning three. So it was a huge surprise to come up against South Korea, who knocked out the Asian champions 28-21 in the semi-finals.
One player who will have extra special attention at the Asian Games will be flying winger Tom McQueen. The Hong Kong Cricket Club flier scored 12 tries – including hat-tricks against Kazakhstan, Singapore and Korea – as Hong Kong grabbed the psychological high ground.
The women, meanwhile, knocked out Japan 10-5 in the semi-finals to march into their first Cup final, with Natasha Olson-Thorne their outstanding player. But unlike McQueen, she will not be in Incheon as she does not have a Hong Kong SAR passport. Amelie Seure and Christine Gordon also fail to meet this Asian Games requirement.
Their absence will be a huge blow as the women bid to win a medal for the first time. They came so close four years ago in Guangzhou and would have returned home with a bronze if not for the referee preventing a conversion from being taken in front of the posts – on the grounds of time-wasting – after Hong Kong had tied the match against Thailand.
China, Japan and Kazakhstan stand in the way of Royce Chan Leong-sze and her team winning a medal.
As for the men, Japan fielded four new players at Sports Road and will undoubtedly bring their best to Incheon.
But playing at home and in front of their own fans, the Koreans will be favourites. They always place a lot of emphasis on winning an Asian Games medal and they will be out to prove that when the playing field is level, with Japan and Hong Kong unable to field their IRB-qualified players (three years residency).
One other thing the RS Hong Kong Asian Sevens proved at the weekend is that the draw will play a huge part.
The first blows in the build-up to the Asian Games have been traded and Hong Kong have emerged on top. The men have one more round – the Malaysian Sevens in Kuala Lumpur (September 6-7) – before they head to Incheon with gold in their grasp.