‘We shot ourselves in the foot,’ says Hong Kong coach Paul John after World Series qualifier exit
Hosts fail to turn up in crushing loss to Chile, then let Germany pip them at the death in their chance for redemption
You cannot fault Hong Kong’s sense of theatre, nor their determination when they commit, but neither were enough to keep them alive in the World Series qualifier.
They had their chances in a captivating 14-7 quarter-final loss to Germany, but ultimately inconsistency and wavering decision-making saw the hosts again fall short.
After a disappointing 31-0 pool loss to Chile, Hong Kong came back from 7-0 down to draw level against Germany, before the crowd at Hong Kong Stadium deflated as one when Bastian Himmer strode away to break the deadlock after the final whistle.
“We put ourselves in this position by the way we played this morning – that Chile game cost us this tournament in my opinion,” coach Paul John said.
“The biggest criticism I’ve got is how we turned up first thing this morning and that’s what cost us this tournament. We shot ourselves in the foot because we could have had an easier draw [rather than Germany].”
The extent to which Hong Kong were exposed in the loss to Chile leaves plenty of doubt about how they will cope against the World Series teams at the Singapore Sevens next weekend.
John is confident his side have it in them to be competitive, but a quarter-final exit here begs the question as to whether Hong Kong have stagnated while other qualifying teams have improved.
“Singapore is going to be a massive learning curve,” John said. “If we commit like we did last game, and like we did in the first two games, then we have a fighting chance in some games next weekend.”
After Singapore, the Asian Rugby Sevens Series is the next assignment for Hong Kong, although top of John’s list is getting to know his players and building depth.
“At the moment I don’t know what is below the top boys, the boys are excellent to work with and we need to keep as many of them together as we can,” he said.
“We just need someone pushing them now. We need people underneath pushing them and trying to get the best out of the regulars.”
For a moment against Germany it looked like there would be a repeat of last year’s epic quarter-final against Spain that Hong Kong snatched in extra time, but it was a Jamie Hood chip-kick that gave Germany the chance to pounce.
After Hong Kong were outmuscled in the first half, Hood finished off some fancy footwork from Cado Lee Ka-to and converted his own try to bring Hong Kong level and the crowd to life.
But just when it looked like the home side would again ride their luck to the semi-finals, the slick Germans found a way.
“We had the decision whether we kicked and chased or whether we kept the ball, which we will obviously look back at, but I can’t fault the effort in that game,” John said.
Hong Kong lost Ben Rimene to a brutal head knock early on and took some time to find their groove, often rushing with ball in hand in the first half.
“We didn’t keep the ball. We got a little bit excited, we tried to force things and there were three turnovers in our possession,” John said.
As for how far John thinks Hong Kong is away from earning a spot on the World Series now that he’s had a good look at his team: “I don’t think we’re far, I really don’t.”
The qualifier semi-finals see Chile take on Germany and Papua New Guinea lock horns with Spain.