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Hong Kong team’s head coach Paul John (right) and his assistant Jevon Groves. Photo: Antony Dickson

Hong Kong coach praises side’s ‘character’ after Asia Rugby Sevens Series triumph in Korea, as anthem row rumbles on

  • Jevon Groves says team’s ability to grind out win in second leg of series points to a promising future
  • Hong Kong’s men and women both walked away with silverware, with women thrashing Sri Lanka to claim plate title
Hong Kong coach Jevon Groves hailed his side’s “character” after they won an Asia Rugby Sevens Series stop in Korea, which is at the centre of a row over the playing of a protest song instead of the Chinese national anthem.

Before the final between Hong Kong and South Korea in the men’s cup, when the national anthems are typically heard, the wrong song was played for the city’s team, with “March of the Volunteers” replaced by an instrumental version of “Glory to Hong Kong”, the signature protest song of the 2019 social unrest.

Local authorities denounced the error and have demanded a full investigation into a blunder tournament organisers blamed on “human error” by a junior member of staff.

Hong Kong ease into last 8 of Asia Rugby Sevens Series stop in Korea

While Hong Kong’s players appeared unimpressed by the error, they did not let it affect them on the pitch on Sunday, beating their hosts 19-12 to win the cup for the second successive leg.

But they had to come from behind to do it after trailing 12-5 at half-time, and Groves said it had been “really pleasing to see the boys grind out a win like that”.

With eight members of the squad playing just a week after the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, Groves hailed them for “stepping up hugely this tournament”.

“I think there was lots to take from that performance,” he said. “We showed good control and we didn’t panic in those situations when we were a few tries down.

“We were good in parts this weekend, but mostly I’m proud of the character we showed. Our performance was not as exciting or entertaining for the fans as last weekend in Hong Kong, but it is good to know that we can play that high-intensity rugby and then back it up with a performance like this, where we had to grind out the win. That bodes well for future tournaments.”

Jessica Eden (left) scored one of Hong Kong’s seven tries against Sri Lanka in the plate final of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series leg in Korea. Photo: Asia Rugby

Victory means Hong Kong have likely sewn up the series title before the last stop in Dubai later this month, and there was silverware too for the women, who hammered Sri Lanka 43-7 to win the plate final.

Nam Ka-man scored two of her side’s seven tries, with Julia Oyana, Jessica Ho, Jess Eden, Cheryl So and Au Yeung adding the others. Ho also contributed eight points with the boot, while Cheryl Chan’s huge tackling kept Sri Lanka ever moving forward.

Iain Monaghan, the women’s coach, was pleased at his side’s ability to bounce back, after opening day defeats to Kazakhstan and China.

“It is a new group, but they are building nicely,” he said. “Our challenge for Dubai is to build consistency in our performances and learn from those losses.

“This is a good group of young athletes, if we can get them more experience and get them believing a bit more in themselves then they will be a real handful.”