Argentina edge fierce Hong Kong Sevens Plate decider in bad-tempered USA battle
The win was extra sweet for Argentina coach Cora after his side’s loss to the Eagles in Saturday’s pool match
A new rugby sevens rivalry was born in Hong Kong Stadium after a fierely-contested Hong Kong Sevens Plate final saw Argentina hold on 14-12 against the USA on Sunday evening.
The win was extra sweet for Argentina coach Santiago Gomez Cora, who saw his side lose to the Eagles 31-17 in a pool match the day before.
“I feel amazing because we beat the USA,” he said. “We couldn’t do it yesterday so we were happy to have another opportunity and we did it.”
Argentina also lost to the USA in the final of the Las Vegas Sevens in March, handing the Americans their first ever Cup win on home soil.
“I don’t know what’s happened but we’ve played [against USA] seven times this season,” said Cora, a former player and Hong Kong fan favourite. “We’re 4-3 after this so we’re winning.
“It wasn’t a special match but for this season. Our goal was to beat the USA and to arrive at the World Cup [in San Francisco] a better team.”
Argentina secured an early 14-0 lead before USA pocket rocket Carlin Isles scored two tries to bring the teams within touching distance.
A nasty aerial incident in the subsequent kick-off saw Argentina’s German Schulz sin binned, infuriating USA coach Mike Friday who believed the card should have been red.
“I don’t know what it has to be to be a red card,” said Friday. “That’s blatantly taken out of the air – he’s lucky not to be on a stretcher.
“Playing Argentina is always a tight affair, and when you’re out of the main event and in the bridesmaid’s competition, it comes down to who can make the least mistakes. We were a bit loose at times.
“That’s sevens. If you’re slightly off, you bring another team into it and they took advantage,” he added.
Cora saw a whole other side to the challenge.
“For me, it wasn’t even a yellow card,” he said. “I don’t like to talk about referees after the match, but for me it was fair because both players jumped and fought for the ball in the air.”
Argentina captain Gaston Revol said rather than a rival, he saw USA as just another team.
“We like winning. We weren’t thinking about them, we were thinking about Argentina,” he said. “We defended very well in those last two minutes, especially when we went down to six men.”
The Argentines will now regroup and plan for the next round of the World Series in Singapore at the end of the month. Returning to Argentina and then to Singapore takes almost four days of travelling, so Cora does not have a second to waste.
“Maybe the players will [celebrate] but not me because we have to focus on Singapore,” he said. “We’ll do some analysis tonight because we have a long flight tomorrow.”