Too little, too late: Victory for rampant Hong Kong not enough to salvage Asian junior title
Home side beat Sri Lanka 36-10 in the final of the second round, but it was only enough for third place overall after a poor opening effort in Malaysia
Daniel Archer and Cameron Smith were the stars as Hong Kong found their groove to win the second round of the Asia Rugby U20 Sevens Series at King’s Park on Saturday with a 36-10 victory over Sri Lanka in the final.
But as impressive as their final win was, it wasn’t enough to catapult Hong Kong into first place in the series after a fifth place finish in the first round in Johor Bahru last month proved costly.
Archer crossed three times in the final and Smith twice and coach Fan Shun-kei is already looking to the future after a series in which his players “learned a lot about sevens” despite being unable to claim the title for a third time in a row.
“We didn’t win the series, but the players learned a lot about sevens and also about the intensity required at this level,” said Fan.
“Six of the side are still eligible next year and there are more schoolboys to come through yet, so I think we will still have another very strong side next season, which is encouraging as we aim to get our title back.”
The final was a procession, with Hong Kong waltzing to a 19-0 half-time lead thanks to an opening try to James Karton and two in quick succession from Archer.
Sri Lanka put up more of a fight after the break, but never looked like threatening as Hong Kong continued to deliver immaculate play across the field.
“Our performance in the final was superb,” added Fan. “We started really well and got on the board early. From there on out, our restarts, our handling, our rucking, everything was really precise.
"We just starved them of possession. I think Sri Lanka only had the ball for about 30 seconds in the first half.”
The semi-final was more of a grind for the home side, with Hong Kong forced to battled back from 14-5 down against Malaysia to win 26-14.
Mark Coebergh and Liam Herbert were both amongst the tries as the victors piled on 21 unanswered points to book their place in the final.
“Our two veterans, Daniel [Archer] and Cameron [Smith], really led from the front this week, but the credit has to go to a very solid team performance from top to bottom,” Fan said.
Despite the final defeat, Sri Lanka won the series overall, with South Korea finishing second.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s women lost two of the three matches in their abbreviated tournament against eventual series winners Thailand.
Sam Feausi’s side lost the first 19-7 and the second 15-10 before digging deep to win the last game 10-0.
Au King-to, Lee Tsz-ting and Rosanna Wright were dangerous for Hong Kong and all scored tries throughout the day.
“I have to give a lot of credit to the girls,” Hong Kong coach Feausi said.
“They have improved in every game, they did what they were asked to do and they learned a lot along the way.”