Trio of tyros lead Hong Kong to easy victories on opening day of Asia Rugby Sevens Series
Alessandro Nardoni, Max Denmark and Liam Herbert make their mark as local side demolish Malaysia and South Korea at Football Club
Three youngsters made a big impression for Hong Kong – fresh off their Asian Games gold-medal winning performance – as they opened their campaign in the Asia Rugby Sevens Series on home turf at the Football Club on Friday.
Alessandro Nardoni, Max Denmark and Liam Herbert were prominent as Hong Kong romped to two easy victories, over Malaysia 54-0 and South Korea 59-0.
Nardoni, 21, scored the first try of the tournament for the local side, breaking through the Malaysian defence with relative ease in their opening pool game.
Nardoni, who first got the call-up from the under-20 squad in July for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco, was born in Florence, Italy and moved to Hong Kong when he was 10 as his father got work in the city. He noted it was his dad that originally got him into rugby, forcing him to play.
“The first year I played I really didn’t like it,” said Nardoni, who had played basketball in Florence during his early youth. “But he kept encouraging me to play and then after a while, I got good at it and started liking it.”
Nardoni, who plays for Hong Kong Scottish in the Premiership, scored in the Asian Games final against Japan to put Hong Kong up 14-0, sealing a famous victory for the squad.
He noted he had some serious butterflies when he made his debut for the squad in San Francisco but had now settled into his role. “After getting my debut under my belt now it feels like my career is starting and I can go from here,” he added.
The second half of Hong Kong’s first match of the day against Malaysia belonged to Denmark, 20, who got the call-up from the U-20 squad last year. Denmark, a Hong Kong native, ran riot against the smaller Malaysian side, busting his way through tackles with size and speed on his way to two second-half tries. He said he got into rugby as a kid because his parents were simply trying to fill his days up and keep him out of trouble.
“I was already playing football but I wasn’t doing anything on Sundays so they sent me out to rugby and I fell in love with it.”
Herbert, the third recent call-up from the U-20 squad, also made his sevens debut in San Francisco. Herbert, who plays his club rugby alongside Denmark at Football Club, pulled off some strong tackles against South Korea and also scored a try late in the second half.
Hong Kong will round off their group play today against the Philippines, who lost to South Korea 12-7 and beat Malaysia 26-10.
Hong Kong appear destined for a clash with Japan in the final later today. Japan beat Taiwan 22-0 and Sri Lanka 21-0 in their group games.
The Hong Kong women’s sevens side split their matches on Friday. They beat Thailand 22-7, with two tries from Natasha Olson-Thorn but then lost to Japan 31-7, with Aggie Poon Pak-yan scoring a lone try for home side. The women round off pool play against South Korea, with a berth in the knockout stage still undetermined.