Hong Kong three wins away from Olympics - but powerhouse Samoa stand in their way
Sevens side win all three group games in impressive start to winner-takes-all repêchage qualifier for Rio
Hong Kong will face powerhouse Samoa in Sunday’s quarter-finals after three thumping wins on day one of the winner-takes-all Olympic repêchage tournament in Monaco.
Hong Kong finished top of pool D after winning all of their matches and head in to the knock-out phase of the tournament in some solid form.
Whether it is enough to challenge Samoa – winner of the Paris leg of this year’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series – is another thing altogether.
While Samoa will make life hard for Hong Kong, a narrow loss to Ireland showed they are beatable.
Despite his side negotiating its first three hurdles with aplomb, Hong Kong coach Gareth Baber knows the real stuff starts now and remains realistic about Hong Kong’s chances.
“We know it’s going to be a physical game against Samoa, we know how good they are,” he said.
Hong Kong defeated Mexico (26-10), South Korea (19-7) and Spain (19-0) in pool play and Baber was pleased not only with his side’s progression to the quarters, but also with how they went about it.
“We were pleased with doing that [progressing], but we are more pleased with the standards we set as a group and we want to make sure we hit those every game we play,” Baber said.
“I think our continuity [was impressive], in that we were really good at getting the ball out of the tackle and keeping the continuity. We are not giving the opposition opportunities to make the hit and steal the ball back.”
Hong Kong looked sharp from the outset, with the likes of Max Woodward, Chris Maize and Tom McQueen leading the way.
Tries to Maize, Woodward, Salom Yiu Kam-shing and Rowan Varty saw them post a commanding first-up win over Mexico.
The second match against South Korea was closer but Hong Kong never looked seriously troubled, with first-half tries to McQueen and Maize setting up the victory.
Hong Kong’s performance against Spain was their most impressive of the day, as much for the three tries as their ability to keep their opponent scoreless.
“They’re a good side and offer a lot of pressure on the field and I think it was our best performance,” Baber said.
“When we didn’t have the ball we were very well organised.”
The other quarter-finals see Ireland play Spain, Germany tackle Chile and Russia take on Canada.