Hong Kong’s men are off to the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco next year after beating overall champions and fellow qualifiers Japan 19-14 in extra-time in the final of the third round of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series in Sri Lanka. It was their second win over Japan in as many days following a 19-7 victory in the pool stages.
Paul John’s side entered the third and final leg of the series in third place in the standings and in danger of missing out on next year’s big event. They needed to finish at least two spots ahead of Korea to grab second spot behind rivals Japan and the tournament win in Colombo meant they did it comfortably, with the Koreans slipping to fourth after losing the bronze medal match to hosts Sri Lanka.
Hong Kong have also qualified for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018/19 qualifier at April’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, as well as continuing their ever-present record at Rugby World Cup Sevens .
“It’s a huge thing for Hong Kong rugby to be playing in those major competitions. To beat Japan twice in two days is a great achievement and the most important thing was we knew we’d qualified going into that last game but it was just not to relax and go on and win the tournament,” said John.
Toby Fenn and Kane Boucaut scored tries as Hong Kong battled back from a 14-7 half-time deficit to level things up when the hooter sounded, with Seb Brien crossing in the early stages of extra-time to secure victory.
Earlier on, Boucaut notched three tries and Hugo Stiles two as Hong Kong beat Taiwan 50-0 in the quarter-finals, while Salom Yiu Kam-shing found the line twice in a 26-12 semi-final win over Sri Lanka.
“The main goal was to get qualification and I’m just pleased the way that they dug in and fought for each other out there,” John said.
SAME AGAIN FOR SAKURA SEVENS
In the women’s competition, Japan beat China in the final for the second tournament running with both sides booking their places in San Francisco next year as the top-two ranked nations from the series.
Having claimed the first title of the series three weeks ago in the Korean city of Incheon, Japan made it through to the final of the Sri Lanka Sevens after pool wins over the hosts, Korea and Hong Kong before knocking off Singapore 27-0 in the quarter-finals and edging Kazakhstan 12-10 in the semis.
China had too much for Thailand, Singapore and Kazakhstan in their pool, while Korea were brushed aside 34-0 in the quarter-finals. Like Japan though, they were pushed all the way in the semi-finals before seeing off Thailand 15-12. Japan went on to beat China 10-5 in the final after Yume Okuroda had given her side the lead after only three minutes.
Following their second tournament win, Japan finished the series top of the standings, on 24 points, with China second on 22 and Kazakhstan completing their return to the international fold four points further back in third.