Hong Kong’s Borneo blitz ends in Cup final defeat by host team loaded with Fijians
A 10-man Hong Kong sevens squad were beaten 21-7 in the Cup final of the Borneo Sevens on Saturday as the hosts and defending champions Borneo Eagles retained their title in convincing style.
Hong Kong had battled their way through physical quarter-final and semi-final ties to set up a tantalising match with the tournament’s top seeds – a Sabah based invitational team who field numerous A-list sevens players from Fiji and New Zealand.
“Borneo looked really good all weekend,” Hong Kong coach Gareth Baber said of the team who defeated renowned Fijian outfit Daveta to win last year’s Cup final.
“They play a good brand of rugby. It was always going to be a very tough final for us, but that is what we wanted in terms of our preparation for the Hong Kong Sevens next month.”
Reduced to just 10 men in the final after losing captain Max Woodward and front-rower Toby Fenn earlier in the day to minor injuries, Hong Kong conceded an early try to the Eagles and then squandered a chance to level the scores minutes later.
Borneo collected a second try on the stroke of half-time but Hong Kong came out firing in the second half, quickly forcing Borneo into conceding a penalty try to move to within seven points at 7-14 after Jamie Hood’s successful conversion.
It was anyone’s game after that, but in the waning minutes Borneo countered from deep to race away for their third score of the game and a 21-7 win.
“We are battered and bruised a bit after what was a very good final. It was pretty even although they had the better start getting an early try on the on the board before we could settle in,” said Baber.
“But that was what we wanted. Borneo are a very good team with some really skilful players. They play a Fijian style of rugby and I was pleased to see at the end of the day that there wasn’t much between the two teams.
“We will now head back to Hong Kong, assess the players for any injuries and get on with our preparations for the Sevens,” he added.
Hong Kong’s route to the Borneo title-decider started on Sunday with a 19-5 quarter-final triumph over Australian side Palmyra Pirates.
“We were a bit slow to get into the game and I think the guys were frustrated at their start, but we found our way eventually. It was a good wake up call for us,” said Baber.
Hong Kong’s win in the quarters was followed by a surprisingly stiff semi-final against tournament debutants Panthers Blowpipes, a Malaysian Super league team featuring a mix of indigenous players and Fijians bassed in Kuala Lumpur.
The Panthers nearly clawed their way into the Cup final in a highly physical match in which Fenn and Woodward picked up their injuries, but with the score tied 14-14 in the final 60 seconds, Hood spotted a gap and scored the winner.
“It was a very physical encounter and full credit to them, they pushed us all the way to the end,” said Baber.
Hong Kong went unbeaten in the pool phase of the tournament on day one with wins overs ATM Blackhawks (52-0), Singapore (29-0), Sabah Eagles (29-0) and Belgium (47-7).