RUGBY SEVENS

'Magnificent' Morrison inspires HK to victory over Japan in India

Teenager plays a pivotal role in city's morale-boosting 24-14 victory over rivals Japan to lift the India Sevens, auguring well for Singapore finale

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 October, 2013, 10:29pm

Cyclone Phailin hit the eastern coast of India late on Saturday night. Yesterday it was the turn of Typhoon Raef as teenager Raef Morrison's assured performance helped Hong Kong defeat Japan 24-14 to win the India Sevens and keep alive their hopes of retaining their HSBC Asian Sevens Series crown.

Morrison, 19, scored the crucial try just after half-time with Japan on the verge of pulling off another comeback, as they did to beat HK in the finals of the previous two legs in Malaysia and Thailand. Leading 14-7 at the break, Morrison put steel into the hearts of his teammates when he brilliantly stepped his way to the try-line leaving three defenders in his wake.

That was the turning point and when skipper Jamie Hood calmly chose to take a penalty drop goal to stretch the lead, it was clear that Hong Kong had finally broken Japan's stranglehold on them this season.

"It was a composed performance from us. We didn't panic which I think was the difference in winning here and losing the previous two legs," said Hong Kong head coach Dai Rees. "Japan threatened to come back but the guys kept their composure."

Morrison, who was a tower of strength in defence too - "magnificent" said Rees - was one of the lynchpins behind the team's unbeaten run, with fellow forwards Lee Jones and Nick Hewson also standing out. The presence of Kwok Ka-chun, who missed the last leg as he was getting married, gave Hong Kong the luxury of an extra classy forward on the bench. In the backs, Alex McQueen stood out, while skipper Hood's hand on the tiller was calm and collected.

"It was a fantastic all-round performance from the guys in very trying conditions, but now we can relax and look forward to Singapore next month," Rees said.

Japan lead the overall standings by one point from Hong Kong. If Hong Kong win the final leg in Singapore, the series will be decided on points differential.

Hong Kong had earlier beaten Singapore 28-0, and Sri Lanka 33-19, to reach the final. Japan's path to the final was past Thailand and Malaysia, the latter surprise winners over South Korea in the quarter-finals.

Tries from Jones and Tom McQueen gave Hong Kong a 14-0 lead before Lomano Lemeki pulled one back just before the break for Japan, who neutralised a Hong Kong attacking five-metre scrum to score at the other end. That brought up fears of another choke but this time Morrison was on hand to blow aside Japan.

Off the field there was controversy when it was uncovered that Pakistan's failure to turn up was due to the Indian government declaring them personae-non-grata. "Apparently they had visas but at the last minute the Indian government asked them not to come," said a spokesman for the organising committee. Last year Japan didn't travel to the Shanghai Sevens after the organisers failed to provide safety guarantees to the team in the wake of widespread protests across China over the disputed Diayou Islands. Japan were not penalised and were awarded points for the tournament which was won by Hong Kong.