Sevens team left wondering what might have been
Hong Kong saved their best for last - but it was a shame they were not playing for medals after an unkind draw had seen them drop out of contention in the rugby sevens competition on the opening day.
'We finally played some good sevens rugby,' said Hong Kong forward Mark Wright, who scored two tries in a convincing 35-5 victory over Sri Lanka in the fifth place play-off at al-Arabi Stadium.
A last-gasp try from Japanese winger Akhito Yamada earned Japan a narrow 27-26 victory over defending champions South Korea in the final. China won the bronze medal, defeating Taiwan 19-12. It was China's first medal in international competition.
Hong Kong's win over Sri Lanka was small consolation. The Ricky Cheuk Ming-yin-led team played some of the best rugby in the competition, but their fate was sealed by their 21-7 loss to South Korea on the opening day, a result which decided the pool winners.
Hong Kong beat Thailand 26-21 in their other pool game, but the margin of victory was not enough to earn them the right to enter the medal round as the best second-placed team. That place went to Taiwan, who were lucky to have Qatar in their pool. The hosts were playing international rugby for the first time.
'We're very disappointed. We pushed Korea all the way but lost. The draw meant we had to beat both sides to go through to the last four,' said Hong Kong coach Rodney McIntosh. 'But I'm happy with the way we played against Sri Lanka. The guys finally expressed themselves and executed with great accuracy.'
Wright, who scored in all three of Hong Kong's matches, was among a crop of outstanding players. Others included Keith Robertson, Cheuk, Rowan Varty and Jeff Wong.
The speedy Robertson was superb in creating moves as well as being solid in defence, but it was one moment of madness from him against South Korea which cost Hong Kong dearly. With the scores level at 7-7 and South Korea down to six men, Hong Kong won a penalty, but Robertson took the wrong option and kicked possession away. A try at that stage might have turned the tide in favour of Hong Kong.
Boasting the youngest team in the tournament, however, Hong Kong's future looks bright.