Hong Kong face Wales in Challenge Trophy quarters in Singapore

Hong Kong face Wales in Challenge Trophy quarters in Singapore

13 April, 2019

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Hong Kong lost all of its pool matches on day one of the HSBC Singapore Sevens today. Hong Kong is the invited 16th team - hitting out with the 15 core teams on the international series for the first time this season - in Singapore.

Hong Kong dropped games to France, 7-26, Argentina, 5-31, and Australia, 0-47, to close the day. The results see Hong Kong route to the Challenge Trophy quarterfinals in tomorrow’s final day action at the National Stadium in Singapore against Wales (10.22), who finished third overall in Pool C.

Hong Kong was hoping for a more positive performance today after reaching the final of the Series Qualifier last weekend at their home sevens. Indeed, things started well against what on paper looked like the toughest test of the day, versus France, who reached their second straight cup final last weekend at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.

Hong Kong held its own in the early stages, but yellow cards to Raef Morrison and Alex McQueen on either side of half-time left a gap on the pitch - and on the scoreboard - that was ultimately too big to fill with the French posting a comfortable 26-7 win by full-time. Hong Kong’s try came from Liam Herbert near full-time, with Russell Webb adding the conversion.

Hong Kong dipped in form in their second outing against Argentina, losing 31-5, with captain Max Woodward notching Hong Kong’s only points in the 11th minute. Argentina’s run continued as they advanced to the Cup quarterfinals tomorrow versus USA, while France had a poor outing today, ending up in the Challenge Trophy quarters as well.

It was a step in the wrong direction for disappointed Hong Kong coach Paul John.

“It’s been disappointing, I thought we did okay in the first game, despite the two yellow cards, we stretched France a bit and should have scored early on. But we are very disappointed in our second game. We stood off Argentina a bit I thought. We had opportunities where we could have gone hard but we didn't.

“We look a tired side in my eyes today, but every side here also played last week,” John noted.

Hong Kong put in an improved effort against Australia but fatigue and unforced errors conspired in a heavy 47-0 loss. Australia also advanced to the cup quarters tomorrow.

“Every time we had the ball against them we made an error, and every error led to a score for them. We can’t do that against teams like Australia who are here fighting for every last point as they try to climb the series ladder.”

John has placed the onus on his players to sharpen up overnight:  “We have to talk it through tonight and to be honest about it. We are making too many errors and not really going for it.

“The boys are trying, I can’t fault them for that, and we are trying to change it up a bit on the pitch, rotating players, but it’s disappointing. I feel like we are letting ourselves down.

“We beat Chile and Tonga last week and both of them have beaten some good sides on the Series. We looked a bit overawed out there today, and I don’t see why, this is where we want to play,” John noted.

There were some bright moments on the day, including the debut of Harry Sayers, who handled himself well in his first Hong Kong and World Series outing. The 22-year old was excited at the opportunity, saying, “I have not been back in Hong Kong that long and to have an opportunity like this has been incredible,” said Sayers, who is adjusting to life at the sharp edge of sevens rugby.

“It’s different and there are a few boys with a bit more toe out there, but we need to get used to that. Today was a bit of a reality check, and now we know the levels we need to play at tomorrow. Hopefully I can help bring some of my physicality into it, just keep my feet and work hard to create offloads for the others,” said the Hong Kong born winger from Surrey.

Hong Kong will face Wales in tomorrow’s Challenge Trophy quarterfinals at 10.22.

While this weekend’s outing is not what Hong Kong had hoped, it is long-term results that matter most with a pivotal year ahead for the men’s seven culminating in the regional qualifiers for the 2020 Olympics this November in Korea.