Hong Kong on cusp of reaching 2013 World Cup in Russia
Defeating South Korea in Singapore Sevens semi would ensure Asian champs qualify for Moscow showpiece
Hong Kong are one win away from booking their passage to Moscow for next year's Rugby World Cup Sevens after the Rowan Varty-led side swept aside all opponents to march into the semi-finals of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series in Singapore yesterday.
"We are in a position where we want to be. It has been a very good day and now we want to finish it off," said Varty. "I have been to two World Cup Sevens already, the last one in Dubai and when Hong Kong hosted it previously. It will be nice to make it number three." Hong Kong lived up to their newly won tag of Asian sevens champions at the Padang yesterday by registering comfortable wins over Guam (48-7) and the Philippines (29-12) in the pool competition before stepping up the intensity with a solid 33-0 victory over Malaysia in the Cup quarter-finals.
That win has put Hong Kong within reach of their goal this season which is to keep their proud record of playing in every World Cup Sevens by qualifying for Moscow. A win over South Korea in the semi-finals today will assure them of a berth. The top three teams in this fourth and final leg of the Asian Sevens Series will represent Asia at the World Cup.
"If we win, [against Korea] we will have accomplished our goal. I don't want to be in a position where we have to win the third-place play-off to qualify for Moscow. We must go out against Korea and complete the job," said Hong Kong coach Dai Rees.
While the opening pool games were one-sided, Malaysia, fielding a few Fijians, pushed Hong Kong the most, despite the scoreline. For the first time Hong Kong didn't have complete control of possession and had to work hard, turning rock-solid defence into tries.
Forwards Nick Hewson and Kwok Ka-chun were everywhere while hooker Ant Haynes had a blinder, scoring the opening two tries which seemed to deflate the opponents. Others to stand out on the first day were the McQueen brothers Tom and Alex, while Jamie Hood was superb with his eye for the gap.
"Our work rate went up when we didn't have the ball. Our defence was influential in this game," said Rees, who knows this aspect will have to be at the sharpest today against Korea, and then hopefully Japan, who like Hong Kong have emerged unbeaten.
Japan take on the Philippines in the other semi-final with their eyes firmly on a Cup final against Hong Kong. The Japanese are smarting from having their Asian title whisked away by Hong Kong, who won two of the three previous legs in this series.
"It will be nice to qualify for the World Cup by beating Hong Kong," said Japan coach Tomohiro Segawa. "But we have to improve our play at the breakdown. We need to move the ball out more quickly, especially if we come up against Hong Kong."
Everyone is impressed with Hong Kong. Sadly only a handful of spectators were around at the 7,000-seater temporary stands built on the Padang. Hong Kong won't mind as long as they qualify for Moscow.