Hong Kong reign over Spain to secure semi-final spot
Toby Fenn scores sudden-death try after Salom Yiu Kam-shing equalised for the home side
A Hong Kong team who have so often seen their moment come and go at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens finally landed a blow of some substance on Saturday night, shocking Spain 12-7 in extra time in a pulsating quarter-final.
Hong Kong attacked relentlessly through a hectic few minutes of the golden point sudden death, before James Cunningham sent Toby Fenn over for the win.
It was refreshing to see the home side embrace the crowd support and deliver in a situation that has so often before seen them go to water.
“Getting the crowd atmosphere and energy helped,” Hong Kong’s Ben Rimene said. “It’s happened in the past where we might not have delivered where we needed.”
Coach Gareth Baber was relieved to see his players finally stand up when it mattered.
“This [the Sevens] is a pressure environment,” he said. “Part of that is putting yourself in situations, you hope you get in situations like that, and then having the wherewithal to be able to finish, which is exactly what we did.”
The celebrations must be short-lived, however, as Germany and either Japan or Zimbabwe stand between Hong Kong and a permanent HSBC Sevens World Series berth.
Although the players may dare to dream, Baber is well aware his side would have to find another gear, maybe two, to go all the way.
“We’ve got to do much the same and more,” he said.
“There were still errors in that game, we were under pressure at line-out. I thought we dealt well with the kick-offs.”
WATCH: Post-match interviews with Gareth Baber and his charges
The golden point try was especially pleasing for Baber, with Cunningham and Fenn both making the transition from the 15s elite rugby programme.
It was Fenn who scored but Hong Kong had several earlier opportunities to seal the win, with Rimene missing a penalty kick and Spain thwarting a number of other scoring chances.
Salom Yiu Kam-shing scored the try to drag Hong Kong back into the game, and Baber sensed a kill with his side dominating play during extra time.
“When Spain had the ball we didn’t let them breath,” he said.
“We put pressure on the whole time. There were knock-ons, they were trying to kick out and we knew, when a team gets into that sort of situation, that we’ve created the pressure.”
A Japan side who haven't conceded a point in romping to the semi-finals are confident they will put in a stronger showing than in the 2014-15 world series if they earn back their core status.
Japan struggled to field their full side in the last series because of players’ domestic contracts, but have a near full strength side in Hong Kong.
Coach Tomohiro Segawa hopes next year will be different should they qualify.
“It is going to be my job to keep these players,” he said. “But we focus for the Olympics first.”
Japan will play Zimbabwe in the other semi-final.