Asia Under-20 Sevens: surprise, disappointment and elation mark Liam Doherty’s ‘real journey’ to Hong Kong honours
The 18-year-old shines on debut as the hosts start the Asia Rugby Under-20 Sevens at King’s Park with a bang
Liam Doherty calls his rise to Hong Kong honours a “real journey” and the youngster’s eye-catching performance at the Asia Rugby Under-20 Sevens on Friday suggests that journey is only just beginning.
After overcoming the surprise of being considered good enough to represent Hong Kong – and a number of setbacks on the way to actually doing it – the 18-year-old was electric as his side impressed on day one at King’s Park.
Defending champions Hong Kong opened their account with a 33-0 win over Thailand and then saw off South Korea 19-5, with Doherty scoring three tries.
It’s been a rapid rise for Doherty, who plays for the Discovery Bay Pirates in the third-tier Championship and only became involved in the Hong Kong set-up after being nominated to trial by his coach – former Fiji 15s captain Deacon Manu – last November.
“[Being nominated] really surprised me but it’s been an absolute pleasure to do it. The boys have been really welcoming and made it easy to get into training,” Doherty said.
“It’s been a real journey, I’ve been cut from a few teams – like the team for the New Year’s Day tournament – but it’s an absolute pleasure to finally get the chance to run out.”
Born in South Africa, Doherty has lived in Discovery Bay since a young age and is ready to throw everything into making a fist of a career in rugby.
“It’s my first time playing and I’m buzzing, the boys really looked after me. There’s a great atmosphere in the team,” he said. “I’m taking a year out of schooling to see how I go in Hong Kong with the rugby.”
Hong Kong breezed through their first game against Thailand, with Doherty crossing twice and Paul Altier, Thaddeus Summers and Henry Poon Yau-him adding singles.
The match against South Korea was slogged out in pouring rain but Hong Kong still managed some slick ball movement, allowing Doherty to add to his try tally and Mark Coebergh and Matthew Wyatt to get in on the act as well.
“I’m very happy because a lot of the guys are quite new to sevens. It’s a good start and we are looking forward to tomorrow,” said Hong Kong coach Fan Shun-kei. “I was impressed by Liam, and Paul and Mark did a really good job in leading the team.”
Hong Kong face Malaysia in their final pool game on Saturday.
Hong Kong’s women also went unbeaten on Friday, with Jessica Eden leading the way with two tries in her side’s first-up 29-7 victory over Singapore.
Beatrice Bourron, Hebe Talas and Shirley Lam also crossed in that win, while the hosts proved too strong for Thailand in a 29-5 triumph built on the back of tries to Eden, Bourron, Chloe Chan and Maelle Picut.
“Every single year we are just trying to beat Thailand and we’ve finally done it. We are really happy about that,” said Hong Kong captain Grace Hood. “After a really good start I think we’ve got it in us to make the Cup final.”
Hong Kong, who finished third last year, play China and Malaysia on day two and are well placed to make the decider.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s senior men’s side went down 45-24 to the Western Force in Perth on Friday night, with Josh Hrstich and Lewis Warner among Hong Kong’s try scorers.