All the tricks: Gareth Baber confident Hong Kong are on track to secure home tournament
Hosts play South Korea in the semi-finals of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series opener after breezing through pool matches without conceding a point, while women are also in the last four against China
Hong Kong coach Gareth Baber is hopeful his side’s recent training camp in Shandong will prove an ace up his sleeve on the second day of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series at Hong Kong Football Club.
If Hong Kong, who breezed through pool play without conceding a point, can defeat South Korea in the semi-final stage, they will likely come up against a China side that was also undefeated on day one.
“We had a training camp recently against a lot of them up in Shandong, so we know a little bit about them,” Baber said.
“They play some good stuff, they’ve got good athletes in their team and they’re fit with it.”
South Korea, of course, will be no pushover – they played in the main draw at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in April – but Baber likes how his side is shaping up.
“I thought we looked brave in the last game [a 22-0 win against Sri Lanka], we were aggressive in what we did ,but we were accurate and we deserved the victory,” he said.
“I feel that if we can do that against Korea again – there will be different elements of the game we focus on – but I feel that there is no reason why we can’t progress.”
There is the risk that the ease in which Hong Kong negotiated their preliminary matches could prove to be a negative, with their first two wins over Malaysia (36-0) and Taiwan (47-0) barely requiring third gear.
Sri Lanka, who face China in the other semi-final, provided a sterner test, but were still no match for a Hong Kong side that seems to have found a nice balance between defence and attack.
“There is always that chance [that it was too easy],” Baber said.
“If you look across the pool and see the ding-dong battles that have been going on there, which we have been involved in previously, you’ve got to [think that].”
“From my perspective, the players in the change room know that anyway, I don’t need to tell them. They know what they have got to do.”
Hong Kong had a host of contributors across their three matches, with Ben Rimene busy throughout, Ryan Meacheam at his dynamic best with three tries and captain Max Woodward leading from the front and finding the line twice.
A Japan side fielding a team made up of university students with an eye already on the next Olympics finished third in pool A, defeating only Singapore.
Hong Kong’s women face a tough semi-final meeting with a rampant China side that coach Anna Richards described as “head and shoulders above everybody else” on the other side of the draw.
The home side finished second in their pool, winning twice before suffering a tough 28-0 loss to Japan in their final match of the day.
Richards pulled no punches when asked about the best way to combat a China outfit that did not concede a point on day one.
“We just need to get up in their faces,” she said.
“If you give them room to move they are very tough to stop.”
Hong Kong struggled for answers against the powerful Japanese and Richards is hopeful the match will act as a lesson.
“I think it’s a good wake-up for the girls,” she said.
“They were made to work hard, the game is a different pace when you get up against the better teams.
The China team is a big team as well, so we have to learn to put them on the ground.”
Hong Kong’s wins came over Guam (29-0) and Singapore (7-0), with Colleen Tjosvold the star against Guam with two tries and Aggie Poon Pak-yan scoring all the points against Singapore.
Japan play Thailand in the other semi-final.