An "act of stupidity" by Tom McQueen has put Hong Kong under pressure today as they bid to make a claim for a ticket to the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow next year by winning the first leg of the three-legged HSBC Asian Sevens Series, in Kota Kinabalu.
Hong Kong emerged unbeaten on day one at the Borneo Sevens, winning both their preliminary pool games against the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia comfortably.
But all the good work was undone late in the day when a rash tackle from McQueen in the second game resulted in a red card. It will see him miss today's first knockout game.
"Tom got lucky at the hearing," Hong Kong national coach Dai Rees said.
McQueen spear-tackled a Malaysian opponent with Hong Kong leading 37-0 and with just seconds to go. He caught his opposite number around the knees, lifted him off the ground and then dropped him in mid-air, flouting the laws that say the tackler must ensure his opponent is safely returned to the ground.
"It was a fair call from the ref," Rees said. "But it is disappointing to lose Tom as he contributed significantly. Losing a key player like him on the first day will make it harder and now we will have to manage with 11 men and live with his absence in the first knockout game."
Hong Kong face Kazakhstan in the quarter-finals and then probably South Korea in the semi-finals today. Japan and China look set to contest the other semi.
Hong Kong began the day slowly, and despite a 32-7 win against UAE, Rees was less than happy with an error-strewn performance.
"We didn't control the ball as well as we should have. The guys went through a lot of soul-searching and picked it up against Malaysia. But we still have a long way to go," Rees said.
Hong Kong want a top-two finish in the rankings at the end of the series - the other two events being the Shanghai Sevens, later this month, and the Mumbai Sevens in October.
If they achieve that goal, it could see them avoid meeting Asian heavyweights Japan in the preliminary round of the World Cup Asian qualifiers in Singapore in November.
Playing a man short has become a recent habit. In the 2010 Asian Games final loss to Japan, Hong Kong were reduced to six men. In this year's Hong Kong Sevens, Keith Robertson was sent off for a similar offence to that of McQueen.