Debutant Seb Brien sparkles as Hong Kong make perfect start to Asia Rugby Sevens Series
Wins against Malaysia, the Philippines and China ensure Paul John’s side are perfectly placed heading into day two at King’s Park
Debutant Seb Brien led the way as Hong Kong’s youngsters helped put their side in the box seat heading into day two of the first round of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series at King’s Park.
The 2016 Asian champions got their title defence off to a perfect start, winning three from three to top pool A and set up a quarter-final clash with lowly Taiwan.
Hong Kong put away Malaysia 31-0 before romping home 38-5 against the Philippines, and finishing the day with a gritty 26-7 win over China.
“We needed that harder game [against China]. The guys stuck to their task, we haven’t conceded any silly tries and we’ve only conceded two tries all day, so that’s a positive,” Hong Kong coach Paul John said.
One of four debutants, 23-year-old Brien scored five tries for the day as a new-look Hong Kong showed no ill effects of the departure of a raft of senior players over the summer.
“Everyone is hungry, the squad is gelling well and I think we are in for a good season,” Brien said. “There is definitely a good divide between the senior and younger guys, it was an older squad last year but it is nice for a couple of the younger guys to come through.
“There’s a few boys I played with in the under 20s, obviously Mike Coverdale and Chris Maize have been in the squad for a while but it’s good to have Hugo Stiles back and Jason Jeyam coming through as well.”
The versatile Brien ran in a hat-trick in the win over the Philippines and looked dangerous throughout a day he will long remember.
“It’s good to finally get capped, I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time,” he said. “It’s something I’ve been angling towards since 2015 and the day has finally come and I’m buzzing.”
Born in England, Brien lived in Hong Kong for five years as a kid before returning to Britain, where he stayed until moving back to Hong Kong in 2015.
He was involved in the national age grade programme from abroad, played the past two seasons in the premiership for Hong Kong Cricket Club and has been involved in the professional sevens programme since last November.
“I got invited to have a trial with the programme in November last year and then I picked up a few injuries so I wasn’t really getting amongst it,” he said.
World Cup berth on the line as Paul John takes new-look Hong Kong side into Asia Rugby Sevens Series
“Then we came back for the preseason camp and I started really finding my feet and now I’ve got a place in the squad.”
Hong Kong’s opener against Malaysia was a free-flowing affair from the get-go, with tries to Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Stiles and Toby Fenn helping the hosts to a 17-0 half-time lead.
Yiu again crossed after the break and Brien notched his first international try as John’s side gained some early confidence, while Stiles, Mark Wright and Jamie Hood found the line among Brien’s hat-trick against the Philippines.
The China game was by far the biggest test of the day for Hong Kong, with two tries to the ever-reliable Fenn and one each to Brien and Jack Neville seeing the hosts fight back from 7-0 down.
Should Hong Kong progress through their match against Taiwan, they’ll find the likes of South Korea and the undefeated Japan standing between them and the perfect start to the series.
“We’ve got Taiwan first tomorrow and it’s one game at a time now. They’ve had a tough day today but you can’t take anything for granted, it’s all about us getting our game right,” coach John said.