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Hong Kong battle to Cup quarter finals in Borneo

18 March, 2017

The Hong Kong men’s sevens squad advanced to the cup quarter finals after day one of the Borneo Sevens. Hong Kong will play Asian rivals Sri Lanka in tomorrow’s cup quarter finals at 10.40.

The competition in Borneo proved intense as Hong Kong soon found out after dropping its opening match against Sabah Eagles, a local side with several Malaysian-based Fijians in the team, 14-12.

“We weren’t surprised by the level of the competition but I think we took a while to come to the tournament in that first game,” said new Hong Kong coach Paul John.

“Jevon [coach Jevon Groves] scouted out the competition prior to coming down. We knew that there would be a lot of good teams and a lot of good physical, big ball carriers down here and we played a few of them today, which is great from my point of view,” said coach Paul John, who is taking advantage of this weekend’s tournament to season his side before next month’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.

“It was a bit of a wake-up call in that first game, and at times we struggled a bit with our accuracy. I think that can be expected as the boys are coming off five weeks of playing fifteens and it takes a bit of time to get back into sevens mode.

“That lack of accuracy and a couple of decisions that went against us, saw us let the lead slip, but I’m pleased with the way the boys came back,” John added.

Hong Kong bounced back with a 40-12 win over Philippine club Alabang Eagles and a gritty 12-5 win over Dinowin, another invitational squad featuring players from Fiji. In its last match of the day, Hong Kong was back to more familiar opposition, beating the Malaysian Sevens squad 36-12.

“The boys bounced back really well and we played and won three good games of rugby. Our defence was really solid over those last matches and we need to maintain that level tomorrow,” John added.

The results see Hong Kong finish second in Pool B after the completion of play, behind the Sabah Eagles.

They will face another familiar opponent, Sri Lanka, in tomorrow’s quarter final. Hong Kong beat Sri Lanka in two of the three cup finals on last season’s Asia Rugby Sevens Series and dispatched them at home in Colombo in the semi finals of the third tournament to be crowned Asian champions.

Despite coaching for the first time with Hong Kong, John is aware that the Sri Lankans are not to be taken lightly.

“They looked strong. We watched a few of their games and they are a good side. They won easily twice and came close against the New Zealand and Australian based teams here, so we are going to have to raise our game another level.

“I want us to keep getting better game by game like we did today. We need to keep focusing on our accuracy, keep our work rate high and keep working hard on the defensive side of the ball.

“I’d also like us to attack with a bit more of a go-forward attitude and to back ourselves a bit more really tomorrow,” John said.

Sri Lanka finished third in a competitive group A with Australian sevens development side Tribe 7s finishing at the top of the pool, after beating last year’s champions NZ Borneo Eagles 36-14 in pool play.

The Eagles finished second in the pool after beating Sri Lanka 35-12. Earlier, Sri Lanka had dropped its match against Tribe 7s 24-19.

The Borneo tournament, which draws teams heavily from New Zealand, Australia and Fiji, will be Hong Kong’s last hit-out ahead of next month’s Hong Kong Sevens after taking part in the Coral Coast Sevens in Fiji earlier this year.