Hong Kong Sevens

Hong Kong eye Asian Games: Natasha Olson-Thorne inspires victory over Kazakhstan but World Series out of reach

Loss to Brazil and narrow defeat by China deny Kevin West’s side but improved performances raise hopes for Indonesia

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 7:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 10:23pm

The good news is that Hong Kong got better the longer the Women’s Sevens World Series Qualifier played out on Thursday. The bad news is that it all came too late to see them play their way through to the second day of the tournament.

Hong Kong were overrun 38-0 by Brazil in their first outing, regrouped in the second half in losing to China 17-7 and then were inspired by Natasha Olson-Thorne’s powerhouse first half in downing Kazakhstan 17-12 as their day came to a close.

Given that China and Kazakhstan will loom as part of the sevens set up at the Asian Games in Jakarta come August, Hong Kong coach Kevin West walked away from So Kon Po confident things were moving in the right direction for a squad who came into the week shy of two of their stars in wingers Aggie Poon Pak-yan and Chong Ka-yan.

“Last time we played China we lost by 40 points. We turned that to 17-7 and then be beat Kazakhstan. That shows us that if we get it right, yes we can medal [at the Asian Games],” said West.

“It was a great way to end the day and that’s what we take out of it – we got better every game. I think that perhaps in a home tournament we applied too much pressure on ourselves and we didn’t need to. By the time we were relaxed and playing the game we wanted to, it was the second half against China. But we showed we can compete.”

Hong Kong’s 1-2 record saw them just miss out on Friday’s quarter-finals but there were no such worries for the two surprise packages of the day in China and Kenya.

The Chinese topped their group and finished with a blistering display against the Brazilians, winning 31-5 to go through to the quarters unbeaten. But the real stars of the day were the Kenyans, who laid down the law against regional rivals South Africa, last year’s beaten finalists here, in winning their pulsating final pool game 24-12.

It was power and it was pace that did the trick for Kenya and coach Kevin Wambua said a message was needed – and duly delivered against a team they could now end up meeting again come the semi-finals at the Hong Kong Stadium on Friday afternoon. If so it promises to be another cracker.

“South Africa is one of our greatest rivals. We’ve lost to them in two finals but this time the girls were not going to take that again,” said Wambua. “We are playing them next week in Commonwealth Games and then in a month’s time in the African Cup so we wanted to show them what we are all about.”