‘We let the fans down’: Hong Kong coach Paul John pulls no punches after quarter-final loss to Chile
After beating Zimbabwe to reach the quarter-finals, the home side go out with a whimper as their World Series dreams are destroyed yet again
There was no time for taking positives nor for pulling punches as Hong Kong coach Paul John laid it out on the line after his team’s 24-12 quarter-final defeat by Chile in the World Series Qualifier on Saturday.
The Welshman was clearly unhappy with the way Hong Kong performed despite their 19-14 victory over Zimbabwe in their final pool E match that helped them finish second behind Germany in the group.
“I thought we were poor,” said the straight-shooting John. “I thought we deserved to get beaten. We didn’t defend very well and gave the ball away too easily again, and in tournaments like these you can’t afford to do that.
“We’ve let everybody down here today unfortunately because I firmly believe we are more than capable of beating anybody in this competition, but I’d say we beat ourselves.”
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) April 7, 2018
Hong Kong actually led 7-5 after six minutes when Kane Boucaut made the most of an error to score under the posts after Benjamin de Vidts had given Chile the lead.
But after De Vidts restored the South Americans’ lead on half-time, Hong Kong never recovered with their opponents scoring through Rodrigo Fernandez and Francisco Metuaze before teenager Max Denmark pulled one back for Hong Kong.
Chile have looked determined and professional in the tournament, but John insists Hong Kong were good enough to beat them.
This is the second year in a row that Hong Kong have lost in the quarter-finals. In 2016, they were beaten in the final by Japan.
“We didn’t perform like we should, we didn’t perform like we could and we didn’t value possession like we should have and missed far too many tackles,” said John, who coached Wales to the sevens world title in Dubai in 2009.
“That comes down to one thing for me, and that says maybe we were too nervous in this tournament or we were worrying too much. It’s really frustrating.”
When asked if the lack of experience, given the number of young players in the side, was a factor, John said: “Lack of experience? No.
“No matter how much experience you have it is about the performance, how you challenge people in the contact areas, how you challenge people when you have the ball and we’re not doing that because we are just losing possession.
“There are some very good sides in this tournament and I firmly believe we are one of them. You can hammer home the message [to the players] as much as you want. But it’s only words.
“It’s about actions and how you are on the field, where the proof is in the pudding, if you like. Actions tell you everything and behaviour tells you everything and we weren’t up to it today.”
Like his coach, Hong Kong captain Ben Rimene apologised to Hong Kong fans in the crowd of more than 38,000 who were roaring on the home side.
“We just didn’t perform when we needed to throughout our games,” said Rimene. “Yeah, we won this morning [against Zimbabwe], but you could say we were a bit lucky – that’s the way it goes.
“Yesterday we could have won two games and topped our pool and been in a different position today.”
On Friday, Hong Kong lost to Germany 14-12 and Papua New Guinea 22-21 in games they could have won.
“Chile were clinical and accurate with what they were doing and did their homework on us and came out and did the job,” added Rimene. “We are gutted.”
Rimene said if there was one thing to take away from the tournament it was the realisation of what was needed to succeed at the top level. He also called for an attitude change among players.
“They now know the level expected to make the World Series and play these kinds of tournaments,” he said. “Maybe something needs to change in our team culture as we move forward as a group.
“It’s about not accepting things like this, and have the attitude that we are going out to win and be ruthless and just be hard for teams to play against and be difficult to score on us.
“We gave away some soft tries and we need to make them work for those points and we could have easily stopped them.”