Close call: Hong Kong’s U20 women suffer narrow defeat by Thailand in sevens series final
Men’s junior team capture the Plate with a 17-12 victory over Taiwan
Hong Kong’s women suffered an agonising 7-5 defeat by Thailand in the Cup final at the Asia Rugby U20 Sevens Series in Malaysia on Sunday.
Coach Sam Feausi’s Hong Kong had earlier earned their place in the final with a 41-0 semi-final win over hosts Malaysia in Johor Baru having beaten the same opponent as well as Singapore in Saturday’s pool stage of the four-team tournament.
But having finished second in the round robin stage after losing 24-12 to Thailand on day one, Hong Kong also fell short in their second encounter of the weekend with Thailand in the title-deciding match of the first of two legs in the 2016 Asia Rugby U20 Sevens Series for the region’s top age-grade sevens talent.
“We improved game by game and Thailand were fortunate to get the win at the end of the day. We lost to them 24-12 yesterday, but only by two points today in the final,” said Feausi.
“The Thais are quick and play a lot of offload ball - but our girls learn quickly as well. Overnight we analysed their style of play and executed a plan to counter it and we nearly won.”
In the final, Hong Kong’s hopes of a first cup win were buoyed early on when Stella Tam crossed in the opening minute.
But after an evenly balanced first half ended with Hong Kong holding onto their narrow lead, Thailand crucially scored a converted try with six minutes remaining in the second half.
And despite the best efforts of Hong Kong in the closing stages, Thailand held on to claim the win.
“The girls are hugely disappointed, but there are a lot of positives to take out of this weekend, first and foremost, we have a very good team,” added Feausi, with Hong Kong set to host the final leg of the 2016 Asia Rugby U20 Sevens Series on 12-13 August.
“Now we just need to believe in our abilities and go back and prepare for the Hong Kong tournament in a few weeks.”
So close to win! A tight Cup final for our U20 girls, just loosing to Thailand by 7:5. Well done girls!
— HKRU (@HongKongRugby) July 31, 2016
There was, though, a success for Hong Kong on Sunday as the men’s team won the Plate competition with a 17-12 victory over Taiwan thanks to a game-winning late try from Oliver Duffy.
Having earlier finished third in the pool stage with a 24-0 win over Taiwan, Hong Kong beat Thailand 19-12 in the Plate semi-final.
Two-time defending champions Hong Kong had been unable to reach the Cup semi-finals after losing to South Korea and Malaysia on Saturday either side of a win over Singapore.
“We were so much better today. We really started well with the win over Tiawan and we eliminated a lot of the individual errors and played to our game plan more,” said coach Fan Shun-kei.
“Even after starting slowly in the semi-final and giving a couple of tries to Thailand, we kept our composure and exerted good steady pressure to come back from behind and reach the Plate final.
“Of course our aim was reaching the cup competition, but we have learned a lot about the players this weekend. Many of them had not really played international sevens previously and now they have an idea of the intensity required.
“We also have a few players in the wider squad not here this weekend so when we go back we will analyse our performance with the individual players and start working on integrating the new guys in the team.”