Hong Kong’s last game of the Womens Rugby Sevens 2017, and finally a win 15-10 over Belgium who topped the group. Another tournament of untaken opportunities for the home team…
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A boisterous crowd filled So Kon Po for day 1 of the Hong Kong Women’s Sevens. The action was fast and furious if ultimately frustrating for Hong Kong fans. There were some great tries, superb team defence, great goal kicking, moments of individual brilliance and pure stubbornness – all-in-all a day of great rugby and a fantastic showcase for the Women’s game.
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Interest in women’s rugby has surged since the Olympic games so it’s appropriate that as it turns Twenty, the Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens finally gets the recognition the hard working women behind the tournament deserve and becomes a World Series Qualifier.
Why Hong Kong hasn’t been a core tournament on the Women’s World Sevens Series since the outset has been a question no one could/would answer – probably because the men running the HKRU, one of the richest rugby unions in the world, couldn’t see past their massive cash and status generating behemoth of a men’s tournament to even acknowledge that women’s rugby existed and should be funded…
And while this weekend is about Sevens, it needs to be repeated and shouted from our thousands of skyscrapers that the Hong Kong women’s rugby team are going to the World Cup in Ireland later this year. The first and only Hong Kong team ever qualify for a World Cup!!! It’s a massive achievement, and many of the players will be playing in the Women’s Sevens over the next two days at So Kon Po. So take the time, to attend and watch and give them your support. They are modern day heroines!
Twelve teams from the six World Rugby regions will take part in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier at So Kon Po down the road from the Hong Kong Stadium with winner promoted to the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in 2017/18.
The participating teams are South Africa and Kenya (Africa), Jamaica (Americas North), Argentina and Colombia (Americas South), Belgium, Italy and The Netherlands (Europe), Papua New Guinea (Oceania) Japan, China and hosts Hong Kong (Asia).
Three of the participants played in the Rio 2016 Olympics: Kenya, Colombia and Japan Belgium, Colombia, Italy and Jamaica are on debut in Hong Kong, bringing the total number of nations to have participated at the HKWR7s to 41 over the past two decades.
Hong Kong coach Anna Richards is excited at the prospect of playing in the Qualifier. “The quality of the teams is great and the opportunity to contest the qualifier at home is all that you could ask for as a coach. It’s added pressure, of course, but also added excitement.”
“Hong Kong is iconic for Sevens, so hosting the women’s qualifier here is great for the development of the game. The more Women’s events that can be played alongside the men’s tournaments the better,” Richards added.
For the first time, and hopefully not the last, the Cup Semi-finals will be played at HK Stadium. Hong Kong has made the semi-finals for the last two years but fell at the final hurdle and missed out on playing in-front of 40,000 home town fans.
Richards has ensured that the squad have had a more active build-up this year with the squad training with the New Zealand Development squad. “New Zealand was really good for us. We wanted to play against some bigger and more physical opposition. And we footed it really well. They had a lot of quality players in the team in New Zealand, including four contracted players and one Olympian, so it was a really good build-up.”
“We were right in there in those matches and I think the girls gained a lot of confidence. If we can play like that, then I would give us a good chance to make a Semi Final,” Richards said. “To advance we will need to finish in the top two in our pool, but we have had a good build-up and the girls are very focused and enter the tournament with a lot of confidence.”
Additional reporting: HK Rugby
After the individual creativity of Art Week, the wonders of team creativity are on display as Rugby Week 2017 gets into full swing. The Women’s 7s gets long overdue recognition as it celebrates twenty years and the Sevens turn 42, remember to bring your towel.
The week starts, after a year’s absence, appropriately on 1 April with the Beach 5s in Repulse Bay which also features netball, football 5s and dodgeball. A relaxing and social way to spend a weekend on the beach.
Then it’s over to King’s Park on Wednesday for KowloonFest where the old and venerable rumble around the pitch and have a lot of fun as their brain sees them sprinting or crashing through the opposition line to score a fantastic try only to find their legs unable to keep up…
While the 7s is all speed and patterns, perhaps the best rugby of the week is at the Hong Kong Tens. With proper scrums and brutal power forward play the Tens features, especially on Thursday night, perhaps the closest we in Hong Kong can get to seeing modern rugby up close and personal. Select teams packed with talent, new and old, from around the world put a physicality and rawness to images seen on television that really has to be experienced in person.
The wonderful HK Women’s Seven celebrates it’s Twentieth Anniversary with recognition by World Rugby and the HK Rugby Union as it becomes a qualifier for the Women’s World Series. If you can’t get a ticket to the Sevens then head to So Kon Po and see the Olympic sport live. Many of the Hong Kong squad will later in the year represent Hong Kong at the Rugby World Cup in Ireland.
The Sevens, amidst the partying a rugby tournament takes place. The quality of the other World Series tournaments has stumbled this year. Will the teams raise their game, or has HK just become another stop on the global money making merry-go-round?
Here are the dates for your diary for what promises to be a fantastic week of sport and fun.
The annual farce of the Sevens ticket ballot resumes again as registration opens for the public ticket ballot. The registration period runs even longer this year from 14 October to 3 February, 2017 with the ballot taking place on the 8 February, 2017 and winners notified that day by email.
The HKRU has yet to announce the exact numbers but based on last year there are 9,000 individual tickets on-sale. Since regular tickets are sold as 3-day pass. There’s actually only 3,000 tickets available to the public each day in the 40,000 seater HK Stadium. The rest are given to local rugby clubs, allocated to tourist packages or whored out to corporate sponsors paying the big bucks.
If you want a better chance of a sevens ticket, join a local rugby club. You don’t even have to play rugby, join many of the clubs as a social member and as long as you’ve paid the membership fees you can apply to buy a full three day ticket at cost price. You’ll support the local game and you never know you might even enjoy the rugby.
Those who ‘win’ in the ballot will need to pay for their tickets by 22 February 2017. The ticket cost is HK$300 for Friday, HK$750 for Saturday and HK$750 for Sunday. In addition an administration fee of HK$50 will be charge for each ticket.
To register http://hksevens.com/tickets/ballot-registration
Two years ago, at the first ever hosting of an Asia Rugby Sevens Series event in Hong Kong, the HK women’s team beat Japan in the semi-finals to reach their first ever Cup final, losing there to China 38-7.
Women’s Sevens coach Anna Richards is hoping to capitalise on home field advantage again as the ARW7s opens today at the HK Football Club. Richards has picked an experienced side for this week’s competition with the objective of going one step further at team’s home event and lifting the trophy..
“Marky (Komar, Women’s Sevens assistant coach), and I are very happy with the make-up of the side. We had almost everyone to choose from and we chose the side we thought would get us a win in the first leg,” said Richards as the squad trained. The squad has a familiar feel to it with captain Christy Cheng Ka-chi once again leading from the front while Aggie Poon Pak-yan and Natasha Olson-Thorne will provide a potent force out wide.
Hong Kong are the second seeds in Pool A tomorrow behind Japan and ahead of Singapore and Guam. Pool B features China, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Sri Lanka.
While Hong Kong beat Japan in their last outing at the HK Women’s Rugby Sevens in March, Richards says the stakes have grown for all the teams in the intervening months and expects a stiffer challenge from the Asian champions tomorrow who will be looking to improve on their disappointing Olympics where they finished tenth.
“We’re six months down the track from that win, and Japan have brought their top side here this weekend. They are no longer a core team on the international series so like all the teams here they will need to finish in the top two in the Asian Series to gain entry to the Women’s World Series qualifiers. I see a lot of their top girls in their squad for this weekend, which is what we want. It’s always good to play Japan no matter what and we want to face their best.”
A strong day one will be essential and Richards is pleased that the opportunity will come in front of a friendly audience. “It is always nice to start a competition like this at home. It is only our third tournament of the year so the girls are excited. We have done a lot of training, but haven’t played in a lot of tournaments. The girls are keen to get out there. They love to play in Hong Kong in front of their families,” said Richards.
A positive start is a priority for Richards who recalled that Hong Kong’s impressive finish in 2014 was nearly derailed by a sluggish start. “In 2014 we had a poor first day. We just snuck into the semis on goal difference as we drew with Thailand. Then on day two we had a great win over Japan but didn’t do so well against China in the final.
“That was the first time the girls had won silver, but I would like to emulate last year’s Season opener in Qingdao when we played really well to win our first Cup on the Series.” Hong Kong beat China convincingly in the final 24-15 in Qingdao to claim their first ever Asia Rugby Sevens Series event title. “Qingdao was really a watershed moment for the girls and I would like to carry on from there,” said Richards.
The Asian Sevens Series serves a qualifier for the global qualification tournament for the Women’s World Sevens Series with invites handed out to the top two finishers.
Hong Kong Women’s Sevens Squad (Asia Rugby Sevens Series – Hong Kong): Cheng Ka-Chi, Christy (Captain); Natasha Olson-Thorne (Vice Captain); Nam Ka-Man; Candy Cheng Tsz-Ting; Aggie Poon Pak-Yan; Sham Wai-Sum; Colleen Tjosvold; Kwong Sau-Yan; Li Nim-Yan, Melody; Chong Ka-Yan, Adrienne Garvey, Yuen Lok-Yee.
Asia Rugby Sevens Series
Date: 2-3 September, 2016
Venue: HK Football Club
More info: public entry via Happy Valley infield, via the tunnel near the HK Racing Museum
Live stream: http://www.youtube.com/c/AsiaRugbylive/live
Additional reporting and photo: HKRU