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

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 March, 2017, 2:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 March, 2017, 2:42pm

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.

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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.

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But the glory was short-lived, ensuring Hong Kong’s wait for a World Series berth goes on.