Hail rugby's golden boys

Kevin Kung
Kevin Kung |

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The Hong Kong boys' rugby team show off their medals in Nanjing.
The rugby boys claimed the first gold medal for Hong Kong at the Asian Youth Games held in the mainland city of Nanjing, Jiangsu province.

Many expected good news from the Youth Olympic Sports Park Rugby Field because they didn't lose a single game in the group stage and powered through to the semi-finals.

So it was no surprise when they beat Thailand 31-12 in the final on Monday to win the gold medal and numerous fans - most of whom were girls.

It was the Japanese who almost ruined the 852 team's smooth progress during the semi-final. Japan ran in two tries and Hong Kong were down 0-12 at half-time.

"Even though we were behind, we didn't give up," said hooker Hugo Chui Ho-ching, who scored five tries at the Games. "And then we did an amazing job. With the crowd's support, we fought till the end and came back strongly by scoring three tries and two conversions in the second half."

In the end, Hong Kong won a thriller 19-12.

The Asian Youth Games, which was first held in Singapore four years ago, is a multisport competition for under-17s from across the region.

Hugo, 17, a Form Four student from St Stephen's College, said the victory in Nanjing was a tribute to all the hard work put in by the players.

"We all knew that it would be very hot, but we played at a very high intensity no matter how tired we were," he said.

"Most importantly, we proved that we are the best junior rugby team in Asia. This gives us extra happiness, having already won the first Asian School Boys Rugby Sevens Championship held in Hong Kong last month."

Coach Fan Shun-kei, who has supervised the boys' training for a year, was impressed with their performance. "Our goal was to go for the gold medal. The boys maintained a high standard during the three-day tournament. We had tough tests on the final day, first against South Korea in the quarter-finals, and then against Japan in the semi-finals," said Fan.

"Our players had strong belief that they could win the top honour. We delivered our game plan and showed why we were better than other teams with our performance on the field."

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong girls' rugby team beat Thailand 21-5 to win bronze. It was sweet revenge for the local girls who had lost to their rivals in an earlier group stage game.

Dai Rees, head of performance and coaching for the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, was delighted with the results.

Rees said the performance of the local rugby teams would boost the development of youth rugby in the city.

He added it would help the union as well.

"[The boys] having [won a gold medal] at the Asian Youth Games and winning the Asian Schools Sevens in July, we achieved two important results as we bid to renew our Sports Institute status," he said.

"With the boys claiming gold and the girls taking home bronze, we had a fantastic tournament and it bodes well for the future."