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40 Years of the Hong Kong Sevens

A different era: the early days of the Hong Kong Sevens in pictures

IN PICTURES: 40 years of the Hong Kong Sevens - part 2 (1981-1985). Join us for an eight-part romp through the SCMP archives looking at how the world-famous event grew from humble beginnings to become a phenomenon

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 March, 2015, 8:26am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 March, 2015, 12:46pm

From humble beginnings in 1976, the Hong Kong Sevens has grown into the city's leading sports event, famed throughout the world. This year, as the tournament celebrates 40 years, we're taking a ride through the SCMP archives to see how the event became the jewel in the sevens crown. 

And if you see yourself or a friend in any of the pictures in our eight-part series, click here to enter your best memories of the Sevens and the most original/entertaining answers could win a pair of three-day tickets to this year’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens from March 27-29. 

We begin part 2 in 1981, and already the SCMP's reporter was declaring the event "one of the world's most exhilarating sporting spectacles" and "the greatest rugby show on earth".

That might have been a slight exaggeration, but the tournament had certainly grabbed the attention of rugby lovers in Hong Kong and beyond. The SCMP devoted an entire page to the tournament for the first time.

In 1981, the tournament was expanded again, from 16 to 20 teams, and demand was outpacing the capacity of the Hong Kong Football Club stadium. 

DON'T MISS: Part 1 of our look through the archives

The Barbarians, with five British Lions in their team, won that year's tournament, while the SCMP hailed one of Hong Kong's "greatest ever displays" as they reached the Cup knock-out stage. 

In 1982, the tournament moved to the old Government Stadium at So Kon Po for the first time to accommodate the demand from fans, and Australia took the trophy with the Ella brothers, Mark and Glen, starring.  

1983 saw the first appearance of one of the all-time Hong Kong Sevens legends - David Campese. The Wallabies star lit up the tournament and would go on to make 12 appearances. Indeed, during his later years, the 'CAMPO MAKES HIS FINAL BOW' article became an annual feature in the SCMP as he kept changing his mind about retiring.

Campese helped the Aussies retain their title in farcical conditions as Hong Kong suffered one of the wettest Marches in years - 'MASTERS OF THE MUD' was how our front page acclaimed them. (Incidentally, this year saw the first 'SEVENS HEAVEN' headline in the Post - it would be repeated for years before a sports editor finally banned the cliche). 

In 1984, the Bowl competition was introduced as the tournament expanded again, to 24 teams. Taiwan, playing as Kwang-Hua Taipei for obvious political reasons, were among the new boys. 

Meanwhile, Hong Kong skipper Iain Duguid called for the team to become professional - 30 years later, the team at this year's event are full-time athletes at last.

A spectacular Fiji team crushed New Zealand 26-0 in that year's final, one of the most impressive displays ever seen.

1985 was the tournament's 10th anniversary and there were record crowds of 23,000. Hong Kong won their second piece of silverware, the Bowl, and Australian great Michael Lynagh made his debut. He helped the Wallabies to another win, with the classic SEVENS HEAVEN headline used not only on the front page but also on the sports page. Ah, old faithful.

The Wallabies had completed a grand slam northern hemisphere tour and their win over Public School Wanderers, a team mostly comprising Scotland internationals, was the cherry on the top. Former Hong Kong international Peter Lucas, who won nine caps as a teenager in the city, starred for Australia in the final. David Campese bagged a brace and Lynagh scored once and added four conversions.

Roll of Honour:

1976 Cantabrians (New Zealand) 24 - Wallaroos (Australia) 8 

1977 Fiji 28 - Marlborough (New Zealand) 18

1978 Fiji 14 - Manawatu (New Zealand) 10

1979 Australia 39 - Western Samoa 3 

1980 Fiji 12 - Scottish Co-optimists 8

1981 Barbarians 12 - Australia 10

1982 Australia 18 - Scottish Border 14 

1983 Australia 14 - Fiji 4

1984 Fiji 26 - New Zealand 0

1985 Australia 24 - Public School Wanderers 10

Don't forget to enter here if your see yourself or a friend in the first two of our eight-part photo series.

Part 3 is on Friday.