Agony of 2016: How Hong Kong were again put to the sword by Japan
A sluggish start to the tournament for the hosts gives way to a barnstorming run to the final, where Baber’s men go agonisingly close in pulsating encounter
Unexpected losses, gutsy wins, thrilling tries and a heartbreaking near miss – last year’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series qualifying tournament had it all for Hong Kong.
A roller-coaster ride of a tournament that started slowly before roaring to life for the home side nearly ended in the ultimate, before long-time nemesis Japan again put Hong Kong to the sword when it mattered most.
Coach Gareth Baber cited an inability to go the distance in big games as Hong Kong’s stumbling block after they went down 24-14 to Japan in an exhilarating final, but the reality is they were lucky to be in the final at all.
After a big first-up win against the Cayman Islands (43-0), losses to Germany (12-5) and Zimbabwe (19-7) meant Hong Kong had to rely on being one of the best two third-placed finishers to even make the quarter-finals.
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It was then that the action went to another level, with a Toby Fenn try in extra time seeing Hong Kong home 12-7 against Spain and igniting the hosts’ charge.
After turning the tables on Germany in the semi-finals to win 17-7, Baber’s side stormed back from a 12-point deficit against Japan in the final, with tries to Salom Yiu Kam-shing and Alex McQueen catapulting Hong Kong momentarily into the lead.
But the glory was short-lived, ensuring Hong Kong’s wait for a World Series berth goes on.