A few wobbles for Hong Kong but men stay unbeaten on day one of Olympic qualifiers
Gareth Baber’s men have scare but rally against Sri Lanka; Japan rack up the points with show of force
The ghost of disappointments past made a guest appearance at the Asian Rugby Sevens Qualifier, but was quickly sent on its way as Hong Kong overcame a spirited Sri Lanka 27-12 to march unbeaten into the second day's play at Hong Kong Stadium.
Japan loom as the team most likely this weekend after collecting three wins, 151 points in total and zero points against, while dismantling South Korea 47-0 in their final match of the day.
But let's forget about them for a moment and focus on the positives for Hong Kong.
Down 12-0 to a Sri Lankan side noted for their pace and using it to perfection, Gareth Baber's men had a few wobbles, but put things right before scoring three unanswered tries at the death in front of about 6,000 people.
Put it down to learning from previous mistakes, said skipper Max Woodward, whose try late in the first half helped to settle Hong Kong's nerves.
"What we've learned when we get behind is if we stick to our game plan we can win and we did that," he said.
WATCH: Coach Gareth Baber and captain Max Woodward talk about their first day
"I was a little bit nervous, but I have confidence in this team and what we can do. It was really big for us to score before half-time, to settle us down and get us focused," he added.
Baber was able to give the whole squad a breeze-up thanks to early games against Iran (won 46-0) and the Philippines (29-0) - games, which helped Salom Yiu Kam-shing to five tries. The coach said the fact they had been pushed hard by the Tuskers early on might pay dividends in the end.
"The thing you need to do is limit that and capitalise on your own opportunities and I thought we did that in the end."
Japanese powerhouse Lemeki Lomano ran riot most of the day and said everything since touchdown here had gone according to plan for the Asia Rugby Sevens Series champions. "Before we came to Hong Kong we had a two-week long, really tough camp," he said.
"It just prepared us to the point where we don't want to concede any points let alone see any tries scored against us.
"There is a lot of pressure out there from the success of the 15s. Japan has gone crazy. But we don't want to think about that. We are trying to just not overthink it and keep doing more of the same. So we'll keep playing this way, but save a little bit for whoever we meet in the final."Korea were expected to provide the toughest challenge to Japan in pool A, but proved no match under the lights.
Not even the dodgy Hong Kong Stadium surface can be blamed. Again, Lomano said the plan had worked - making sure no one scored against them.
"Keeping everyone scoreless was the main goal for us because in sevens anyone can score points," he said.
"We just applied ourselves on our defence and we just try to work hard on defence and if someone gets a break we bust ass to get back to them."Hong Kong return to action in the final pool B game on Sunday morning against Malaysia with South Korea looking the likely opponents in the Cup semi-finals. It would be Japan after that - and Baber was, when pushed, admitting he'd cast an eye their way during Saturday's rampage.
"These guys are playing either as well as they can or above that and that's what we're going to need against the obvious favourites," he said.