Scorecard: Two wins and one loss, but Hong Kong women still in the hunt
Hosts triumph over China in bruising battle but stumble against Japan in Asia Rugby Olympic Sevens Qualifier
Hong Kong women were left to regroup and recuperate after being bruised by China and then battered by Japan on day one of the Asia Rugby Sevens Qualifier.
The locals had rallied themselves and the crowd in staving off wave after wave of assault by China in the afternoon, holding on for a gritty 5-0 victory that was sparked by an Aggie Poon Pak-yan try after 4.35 had gone on the clock and was then sealed by some resolute defence.
That left Japan to come in the last game of their day and it took just 50 seconds for the tournament favourites to declare their intentions.
The bustling Yume Okuroda crossed the lined after brushing aside the Hong Kong defence and from there on, the tries kept coming until the whistle blew with the scoreline at 36-0 to Japan.
WATCH: Coach Anna Richards and captain Christy Cheng explain what happened on day one
With three games played, the record for Hong Kong stands at two wins and one loss, with a crunch game this morning against Kazakhstan, who finished the day with the same record.
Anna Richards, Hong Kong coach, said the tough encounter against China had left its mark on her squad, but shouldn't be used as an excuse for what came later.
"China was a tough match and it could have gone either way," she said. "But it was good for us because a year ago they were beating us quite significantly. It was a big game, but I thought we were ready for Japan."
That quick try proved otherwise and Hong Kong from then on in seemed to be continually snatching at air, a point not lost on Richards.
"I told the girls it's not that we played badly, just that we were a split second late and in sevens those split seconds make all the difference," she said.
"But we can fix that easily because it's something that is under our control. But Japan are a quality side. You have to be on top of your game to challenge them.
"We've got a big game against Kazakhstan [Sunday morning] and we just have to win that."
Japanese coach Keiko Asami was bubbling with enthusiasm, her side hitting their stride after a bruising encounter of their own against Kazakhstan in the morning, which they won 7-5.
The reigning Asian Sevens Series champions had obviously worked out a plan to keep the ball as far away from Poon as possible - and it worked.
"Hong Kong looked tired at the end of that game against China, so I told the team we needed to start well - and we did," she said.
"Everything fell into place and I told the girls they had earned a good night's sleep. We face China in our last [pool] game. They have speed and they have strength, so we will need all the sleep we can get."
The Kazakhs outmuscled China in their last outing yesterday, winning 22-12. Barring a rash of upsets, that means Hong Kong-Kazakhstan will decide who faces Japan in the final of the first leg of the qualifier. The second is set down for Tokyo at the end of the month.
Hong Kong captain Christy Cheng Ka-chi said they had expected Japan to be the big test at the tournament - and that lessons had been learned.
"We were happy with the first two games, but we gave Japan the ball," she said. "They grabbed the chances we gave them.
"I'm really happy, though, with our defence against China. It tested us physically and mentally, and it showed we're strong both ways.
"Now it's off to shakes and ice packs and get ourselves ready for [Sunday]. Play our system and we'll get a win."