Reede stars as HK finish first day unbeaten

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 March, 2000, 12:00am

It went according to the script for Hong Kong and Matt Reede at the Malaysian Sevens.

Reede celebrated his coming of age by scoring the SAR's first try in their campaign to qualify for the 2001 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Argentina.

And then right at the end of a long and gruelling day, Reede scored a match-winning try in extra-time to give Hong Kong a hard fought 19-14 victory over Taiwan.

That score, his seventh of the day, saw Hong Kong finish unbeaten in Pool B. To top it all off, Reede pulled off several crucial tackles to make his presence strongly felt all day in the tournament, which doubles as the qualifier for the 2001 World Cup.

Top seeds Japan finished at the helm of Pool A, and both the unbeaten teams look hot favourites to book two of the three World Cup berths available to Asia.

Reede, who only qualified yesterday under the International Rugby Board's three-year residency regulations, skipped through a couple of Thai defenders to post Hong Kong's first points.

Hong Kong added a second try soon after through Chris Gordon, who converted both, for a 14-0 lead at the break. Thailand, fighting back bravely in the second half, scored a try, and rattled Paul Dingley's men. But Hong Kong held on to win 14-7.

Hong Kong also beat Sri Lanka 26-12 and the Arabian Gulf 32-0.

'We got better as we went along. But tomorrow is another day and we have to start all over again,' said Hong Kong coach Jim Rowark.

The biggest worry for Rowark will be if captain Paul Dingley is fit to take the field today. Dingley badly hurt his ribs in a crunching tackle against Taiwan and limped off in the first half.

Reede finished on top of the try-scoring list for Hong Kong, underlining how his presence has sharpened the Hong Kong attack.

'It was useful having Matt in both attack and defence. He has given us an option which we have lacked so far this season,' said Rowark.

Rowark also praised the team for an outstanding effort, especially the forwards, with Dingley and Will Wild winning and controlling possession. In the backs Gordon, who scored four tries yesterday, created space in mid-field while Alan Clark, Rodney McIntosh and Mark Solomon played their parts perfectly.

Hong Kong face another hard day today having to play four group games and if they finish on top, a Cup final against probable opponents Japan.

'It was a similar situation in Sicily in 1993 when we qualified for the first World Cup. After the first day, we had to play another round of group games, having been re-seeded on the outcome of the first day's results,' recalled Rowark.

Hong Kong are grouped with Malaysia, Arabian Gulf, Thailand and Singapore in the second-round Pool D.

Japan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, China and India are in the other second-round pool.

Three teams will book their berths to Mar Del Plata next January. South Korea have already gained automatic qualification by virtue of finishing in the top eight at the last RWC Sevens, in 1997 in Hong Kong.