Samoa crush Hong Kong’s Olympic dream at the repêchage quarter-final stage
After winning all three pool games in Monaco, Gareth Baber’s men lose 31-12 to Pacific islanders; Spain later rebound from first-day loss against Hong Kong to beat Samoa and claim last ticket to Rio
Hong Kong got the big-game experience they so desired on day two of the Olympic repêchage sevens tournament in Monaco, but most certainly not the result in a 31-12 loss to Samoa.
It was a disappointing end to what had previously been a positive tournament for Hong Kong, but by no means a surprising outcome against the team who finished ninth in this year’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and won the overall title in 2010.
Later in Monaco, Spain stunned Samoa with a last-gasp try in the final to win 22-19 and earn the sole place up for grabs to make the Rio Games.
This was the same Spanish team Hong Kong hammered 19-0 in Saturday's final pool match.
“For us, it’s really the tackle and the contact area and how quick these teams operate in there, because obviously they are conscious of that when they are playing in the world series,” Baber said.
Baber returns home knowing he will never have the players to meet the physicality of a side like Samoa head-on.
They continually muscled Hong Kong off the ball with their bigger bodies and their combination of strength and athleticism proved too much.
“In terms of learning for the players going back, it is about dealing with that pressure and particularly dealing with the physicality in the contact area,” Baber said.
“In terms of moving bodies in contact areas, that gets a little bit more tricky because you need the poundage to be able to do that. It’s about us developing physically and being smarter with the way that we play.”
Hong Kong now look to the Asia Rugby Sevens Series, starting in September, knowing expectations will be a lot higher.
“It’s important that we perform in that,” Baber said.
“We’ve got our own standards that we want to live up to and I saw them develop day by day. We were preparing to put them into play against Samoa, but in the nature of rugby the opposition have a big say in how that goes.”
Hong Kong went into the match with some confidence after three strong pool wins on day one and started positively, with Salom Yiu Kam-shing opening the scoring.
But the gap between Hong Kong and the top echelon quickly became evident, with Samoa running in four consecutive tries before Yiu crossed for Hong Kong’s second.
Jamie Hood continued his good form from day one, creating opportunities for his side and also slotting a conversion.
In later classification matches, Hong Kong beat Chile 24-5 but then lost to Canada 24-17 in the showdown for fifth place.
In the semi-finals of the battle to decide the team to head for Rio, Spain had beaten Russia 17-12 and Samoa downed Germany 26-14.