HK still hopeful after third place in Shanghai
Hong Kong had to settle for third place at the Shanghai Sevens yesterday - the first event in the inaugural Asian Series. But head coach Dai Rees insisted that a gold medal at December's East Asian Games was not out of the picture.
South Korea defeated Japan 45-19 to spirit away the championship and cement their credentials as the biggest threat to Hong Kong's hopes of winning the EAG plum in front of their home fans at the end of the year.
But Rees was unfazed, saying the Jeff Wong-led team could only get better over the next few months.
'It was an outstanding first tournament for the boys. Considering that this is a relatively new squad, I'm pleased with how they have performed,' he said.
'The fact that we beat Korea in our pool game on the first day will give us confidence. And Japan were here with four Pacific Islanders in their team, all of whom won't be eligible for the East Asian Games,' Rees pointed out.
Hong Kong defeated Taiwan 31-10 - two tries from Rowan Varty, and one each from Simon Leung, Yiu Kam-shing and Gavin Hadley - to clinch third place after they had been knocked out by Japan, 17-5, in a semi-final marred by several controversial decisions by the referee.
'I'm not one to moan and groan about referees, but we had a few decisions go against us,' Rees said.
By his count, Hong Kong were at the receiving end of six poor calls by the referee.
Rees was extra-happy with the ball-winning prowess shown by forwards Leung, Kwok Ka-chun and Hadley, but stressed it was the team effort that mattered.
'Simon is developing into a top sevens forward, while Kwok had a good tournament on his comeback. Gavin was the stand-out first cap for us,' Rees added.
Rees has set sights on finishing in the top two at the Kota Kinabalu Sevens when the Asian Series makes it second stopover next month.
'It is crucial for us to finish in the top two to ensure that we are seeded one or two at the East Asian Games,' he said.