Hong Kong battle into cup quarter-finals at Borneo Sevens in crucial final hit out

Paul John’s side recover from opening defeat to finish second in pool B ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Sri Lanka

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 March, 2017, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 March, 2017, 9:05pm

Hong Kong continued their preparations for next month’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens under new coach Paul John by advancing to the quarter-finals of the Borneo Sevens on Saturday.

In their last outing before April’s showpiece at Hong Kong Stadium as Hong Kong take part in the World Sevens Series Qualifier tournament, John’s side recovered from an opening defeat by Malaysia’s Sabah Eagles to record wins over Alabang Eagles from the Philippines, Dinowin and the Malaysia Sevens side.

Hong Kong will face Sri Lanka in Sunday’s quarter-final having beaten the same opposition in two of the three cup finals during last season’s Asia Rugby Sevens Series as well as a semi-final success in Colombo en route to being crowned Asian champions.

“The boys bounced back really well and we played and won three good games of rugby. Our defence was really solid over those last matches and we need to maintain that level tomorrow,” said John after Hong Kong finished second in pool B behind Sabah Eagles.

“We weren’t surprised by the level of the competition, but I think we took a while to come to the tournament in that first game.

“[Coach] Jevon [Groves] scouted out the competition prior to coming down. We knew that there would be a lot of good teams and a lot of good physical, big ball carriers down here and we played a few of them today, which is great from my point of view.

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“It was a bit of a wake-up call in that first game, and at times we struggled a bit with our accuracy. I think that can be expected as the boys are coming off five weeks of playing fifteens and it takes a bit of time to get back into sevens mode.

“That lack of accuracy and a couple of decisions that went against us, saw us let the lead slip, but I’m pleased with the way the boys came back.”

Hong Kong began the tournament with a 14-12 defeat by Sabah Eagles, a local side with several Malaysian-based Fijians in the team, before hitting back with a 40-12 win over Alabang Eagles.

A gritty 12-5 win over Dinowin, another invitational squad featuring players from Fiji, followed before Hong Kong ended the day with a 36-12 over Malaysia.

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“They [Sri Lanka] looked strong. We watched a few of their games and they are a good side. They won easily twice and came close against the New Zealand and Australian based teams here, so we are going to have to raise our game another level,” added John.

“I want us to keep getting better game by game like we did today. We need to keep focusing on our accuracy, keep our work rate high and keep working hard on the defensive side of the ball.

“I’d also like us to attack with a bit more of a go-forward attitude and to back ourselves a bit more really tomorrow.”