Hong Kong maintain Asia Under-20 Sevens dominance as host of youngsters impress senior coach Paul John
Mark Coebergh, Paul Altier and Jack Abbott among those to push for higher honours as hosts edge South Korea 5-0 in final
A host of youngsters put their hands up for higher honours as Hong Kong maintained their hold on the Asia Rugby Under-20 Sevens with victory over South Korea in Saturday’s final at King’s Park.
Hong Kong breezed through pool play and swatted off Singapore 19-0 in the semi-final but found themselves in a ding-dong battle in the decider, with a final-minute Liam Doherty try seeing the hosts home 5-0.
Hong Kong sevens coach Paul John was on the sidelines and said a number of the squad will “definitely” be considered for senior selection when his side return from the Asian Games and turn their attention to the Asia Rugby Sevens Series, which kicks off next month.
The likes of Mark Coebergh, Thaddeus Summers, Paul Altier and Jack Abbott have had plenty of exposure to the national set-up, with scrum half Coebergh one John was keeping a keen eye on.
— HKRU (@HongKongRugby) August 11, 2018
“If that happens, I would be chuffed but for now we will enjoy this moment,” said Coebergh, who captained the side.
“We won this tournament last year as well, but this year is a bit different – there are a lot of young boys stepping up and being an older guy in the group I just had to control things.”
Hong Kong have now won the competition in four of the past five years, but there were moments during Saturday’s final where they were teetering on a knife’s edge.
It was Coebergh’s match-saving tackle on a South Korean brute who genuinely seemed twice his size that regained the ball for Hong Kong and gave Doherty the chance to seal the deal.
“It’s my last year [of under 20s] and I said to myself ‘I’m not letting anyone through me’. When he made that line break, I was like ‘I’m going to put this man down’,” Coebergh said.
Doherty’s try was a thing of beauty after he received the ball from Summers inside his own half, with the 18-year-old waltzing past two defenders to deliver the knockout blow.
After Hong Kong had failed to score while South Korea where reduced to five men for a period during the second half, coach Fan Shun-kei thought his side had missed their moment.
“It was a roller coaster. Big credit to Korea, they put in a very good game. Our boys fought until the final minute, which was great,” he said.
“I think the boys were too rushed when South Korea had two men down, we were so desperate to score a try.”
Hong Kong’s women also put in a strong performance but fell at the final hurdle, going down to China 33-0 in the final.
Hong Kong improved on last year’s third-place finish and it was only China who troubled them, with big wins over Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia ensuring Sam Feausi’s side will take plenty away from the tournament.