Hong Kong were left to ponder what might have been while undefeated Japan showed they were the team to beat after day one of the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier at So Kon Po.
Two early losses had seemingly put Hong Kong out of an event which is this year celebrating its 20th edition, and is offering the winning team a place on next season’s HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series.
But a late victory over Belgium – 15-10 with the flying Aggie Poon Pak-yan scoring two tries – had raised hopes the locals might have snuck through to Friday’s quarter-finals.
However China’s earlier 68-0 win over Jamaica ensured they would finish as the second-best third-placed team after pool play – and would clinch the final spot on offer.
Hong Kong coach Anna Richards was happy to see Hong Kong get it all together against Belgium but disappointed that her team allowed Kenya back into their opening game, after the home team had led 14-0. They would end up losing 24-21.
“I thought we got a great start against Kenya. I thought we played really well but just made a couple of errors on defence,” said Richards.
“That really cost us. We still let Belgium in during that second half. We’ve just got to get better at maintaining that intensity for the whole 14 minutes.”
Japan will be feeling confident ahead of Friday’s run to the final, after well-earned wins over Jamaica (54-0), the Netherlands (22-5) and China (21-14).
Kenya, too, showed the benefits of having already guested in this season’s world series with try-machine Sinaida Omondi the standout player on day one.
“People think that it’s just a qualifier but people have seen today there are some quality teams here,” said Richards.
“You make one mistake and it’s going to cost you.”
The packed stands at So Kon Po thrilled to the action all day and took some of the game’s lesser lights to heart, especially Papua New Guinea, whose stirring 12-5 win over Italy saw them through to Friday’s quarter-finals.
They paid the fans back by coming over to the stands afterwards for a photo – and coach John Larry was left suitably impressed by the atmosphere.
“We had the crowd behind us and we lifted,” he said. “It has been a great day.”
Friday’s quarter-finals at So Kon Po see Papua New Guinea v South Africa, Belgium v Netherlands, Italy v Kenya and Japan v China.
The semi-final and final action moves to the Hong Kong Stadium during the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.