Four teams surged into the Cup quarter-finals with unbeaten records following a high-quality day at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
After playing one pool match each on Friday, every side was eager hit the ground running again at the Hong Kong Stadium and statements made by all of the pool winners.
Gareth Baber’s outfit flew out of a particularly challenging pool that also housed New Zealand, Australia and Kenya. France offloaded at will and maintained the form that secured them a silver medal in Vancouver. England scored 118 points during their three matches while South Africa, who have never won the title in Hong Kong, built their momentum as the day played out.
The all-important Cup quarter-finals will see South Africa meet the USA, Fiji will take on Argentina, England are drawn against Samoa and France will face-off against New Zealand.
Hong Kong is the seventh round on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2019 and heading into the round there were just 33 points separating the top five teams in the standings. This year’s series carries added significance as the top four teams will qualify directly for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the end of it.
The Challenge Trophy quarter-finals will commence the final day at 09:30 local time (GMT+8) and the line-up sees Scotland taking on Spain, Australia will meet Portugal, Wales face-off against Japan and finally Canada will match up against Kenya.
In Pool A, South Africa and Samoa started the second day with victories over Scotland and Japan respectively. Those results added to their successes on the opening day and created a winner-takes-all clash for pool supremacy.
Both teams took just a little time to settle into the high-stakes clash and it was the Blitzboks who scored first. A missed-pass from Werner Kok set Impi Visser on his way but strong defensive work from Samoa held the scoreline at 7-0 with seven to play. Justin Geduld commenced their scoring in the second half before Kok enjoyed a landmark run-in to dot down for his 100th HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series try. South Africa kept composed to finish as 21-7 victors and make sure that top spot had their name on it.
Los Pumas Sevens, who have reached the Cup quarter-finals at the last two events in Hong Kong, started their second day in Pool B with a hard-fought victory over Portugal. The side found themselves 21-7 down early in the second half before they upped their tempo and used their experience to claw it back to 26-21 in their favour. The match-winning try arrived through Luciano Gonzalez and was the 100th try scored in the tournament.
Elsewhere in the pool, Les Bleus played with confidence and with smiles on their faces. They were sharp in their dismissal of Canada by 24-12, with Remi Siega excelling, and then prepared to face-off against Argentina in the final match of the day.
Initially Argentina edged themselves 14-7 in front as they capitalised on Siega’s yellow card for taking out the final man but France’s response was impressive. An early second-half double, topped by a touchline conversion from Jean Pascal Barraque, gave them a 21-14 lead. They then pressed further ahead through dominating the possession and won 26-14.
Fiji, chasing an unprecedented fifth consecutive tournament victory in Hong Kong, topped Pool C in considerable style.
After a day one 22-5 result over Kenya they put five tries on the board against Australia to commence day two. Aminiasi Tuimaba raced away for the earliest of five-pointers and that set their tone. Fiji led 17-5 after seven minutes and converted that into a 31-12 victory. Meli Derenalagi was hugely influential and the full-time whistle marked their 27th consecutive win in Hong Kong.
The side’s 28th triumph was a mesmeric outing against their great rivals New Zealand. Clark Laidlaw’s team had brushed Kenya aside earlier 36-0 but faced a Fijian outfit in full flow. Fiji were led by their captain Paula Dranisinukula and they took their offloading game to another level. His two exceptional offloads created tries for Aminiasi Tuimaba and Vilimoni Botitu and they finished 19-0 up at the pause. Fiji’s pressure caused handling errors from New Zealand and the defending champions in Hong Kong marched on to become 24-5 winners.
Finally in Pool D, the second day started with a head-turning 54-5 win for England over Spain. Simon Amor’s outfit scored eight tries by five different scorers with Dan Norton, Will Edwards and Tom Bowen all picking up braces.
After came the first shock of the tournament as Wales, who pushed England for seven minutes on day one, beat the world series leaders the USA in a tense encounter.
The contest was locked at 14-14 at half-time before the USA edged in front. However Wales kept their composure and the latter stages belonged to Joe Goodchild. The 20-year-old saved a try at one end before scoring at the other. The ever-reliable boot of Luke Treharne nailed the conversion and the result halted a run of four defeats at the hands of their opponents.
Wales weren’t able to back-up that victory though and a 26-10 loss to Spain took a touch of pressure off the USA heading into their final match with England – Mike Friday’s side were still well-placed to make the last-eight. It was just as well as England exploded out of the blocks and scored 21 unanswered points in the first five minutes. However, like their Cup quarter-final meeting in Vancouver, the USA regrouped strongly. Ben Pinkleman’s hat-trick clawed it back to 21-17 with just over four minutes to play.
England stayed calm and their decisive move arrived in the 13th minute when Mike Ellery exploited extra space on the left. The series leaders hit back for a final time but England’s cushion was plump enough. The hooter marked their first win over the USA since Singapore last year and meant that they avoided a quarter-final meeting with South Africa.
The Men’s World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier is running parallel to the 16-team Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
Twelve teams are battling it out with the winner taking the prestigious prize of core team status for 2020 and the second day of action saw the final pool matches played out before the quarter-finals took centre stage.
Now just four teams remain in contention as Germany will face Ireland, and Chile will take on Hong Kong in the semi-finals on Sunday. The action will kick off at 12:32 local time (GMT+8).
The day commenced with the final round of pool matches as teams looked to secure places in the evening’s quarter-finals. After the three rounds, last year’s finalists Germany and home side Hong Kong, emerged as the unbeaten sides with Ireland recording two wins and a draw.
The final pool standings confirmed the last-eight line up and that saw Germany match up against Uruguay with Ireland and Russia poised to duel for a second time on day two. Chile booked a meeting with Tonga while Hong Kong were pitched against the Philippines, who clinched a last-eight spot via a 24-12 victory over Zimbabwe.
The quarter-finals began with Germany, who have finished runners-up in the last two series qualifiers, taking on Uruguay. It took nine minutes for the first try to arrive as both sides looked nervy. In the end, Bastian Himmer surged in out wide but a chip and chase from Joaquin Alonso followed for Los Teros Sevens. Uruguay had a player advantage, and a 7-5 lead, before Germany put everything into the final moments. Captain John Dawe produced a huge turnover to gain possession back and, two minutes into the red, Tim Lichtenberg raced over on the far right.
Ireland and Russia’s second meeting in the space of just over eight hours saw the former flex their muscles from the word go. They gave Russia very little possession and instead scored four converted tries in the first half, two from speedster Jordan Conroy. A 28-0 lead turned into 47-0 as Billy Dardis and his side sent out a significant message to the rest of the sides left in the competition.
Los Condores Sevens booked their third successive semi-final in the tournament by dominating the possession from the get-go against Tonga. Back-to-back tries finished the first half and Julio Blanc ensured a 15-5 advantage. It was an advantage that kept at bay a final score from Tevita Tuifua’s outfit.
The day finished with the roof being raised for the home team. Hong Kong relished the ardent support from a sold-out Hong Kong Stadium but found themselves locked in a tense clash with the Philippines. Russell Webb nudged them 12-7 ahead with four and half minutes to play and then Tom McQueen put the cherry on top for a 17-7 victory.
The semi-finals will start at 12:32 local time (GMT+8) and the men’s qualifier final will commence at 16:30 local time (GMT+8).