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
Hong Kong’s Women’s Seven topped Pool C at the end of Day 1 of the Columbo Sevens – edging Sri Lanka, 17-12, and blanking Singapore, 26-0, before a superb 19-12 win over China. The women had a slow start against Sri Lanka but did well to claim a win in a match played under the punishing noonday sun.
The result was not as convincing as coach Anna Richards would have liked, particularly with the next match against a Singapore side that has posed problems for Hong Kong in the series. But Hong Kong left no doubt in their second outing as they outmuscled and outran their opponents in a 26-0 whitewash. Hong Kong saved its best for last, producing a peerless performance in a 19-12 win over China to claim the top spot in the pool.
Natasha Olson-Thorne, who continues to stake her claim as one of the top players in Asia of any gender, provided the only scoring in the first half as the gritty centre demolished China’s defence with a huge fend en route to an individual try that put Hong Kong ahead 7-0 after Tjosvold’s conversion.
China drew level late in the half, but Hong Kong resumed service in the second half, taking the ball deep into Chinese territory after China flubbed the second half kick-off. Sensing that China was flagging, Hong Kong upped its intensity further as Adrienne Garvey, Olson-Thorne and Tjosvold put on a master class of support play to peg China on its own try-line. Patience over the ball paid off as Hong Kong mounted wave after wave of attacks sapping the defence.
China eventually regained possession but only momentarily as Nam Ka-man, who was influential throughout the day, levelled the ball carrier. Cindy Yuen Lok-yee collected the loose ball to score from in close. Tjosvold’s conversion gave Hong Kong a 14-7 lead with three minutes remaining. Another Chinese error at the re-start handed the put-in at the scrum to Hong Kong who won ball cleanly. Lindsay Varty immediately raised the stakes with a quick attack, carrying deep before offloading to Ivy Kwong Sau-yan who added Hong Kong’s third try in the 19-7 win.
The reward for topping the pool for the first time this season was bittersweet however, as Hong Kong will now meet series co-leaders Japan, who were unceremoniously beaten by an inspired Thailand seven, in tomorrow’s cup semi final (15.59 Hong Kong time).
“It’s been an interesting day. We struggled a bit in our first game, but played a lot better in the second. But I was really happy with our performance against China, especially our composure. We handled the pressure very well. We were able to keep calm and control the game a bit more and that was the key,” Richards said.
Richards was unfazed that the reward for the day’s graft was to face Japan: “That will be a really good test for us. We know what Japan are like. We will need more of what we showed today against China. We need to control what we can control, stay composed and work hard on defence,” said Richards.
After a disappointing first two tournaments in the Asia Womens Rugby Sevens 2016 where Hong Kong finished third in both, Hong Kong women’s sevens coach Anna Richards and her squad head to the Columbo Sevens seeking their first wins of the season over Japan and China who won in Hong Kong and Korea respectively.
Hong Kong are pooled behind China and ahead of a rapidly improving Singapore side and Sri Lanka in Pool C. Japan top Pool D along with Thailand, South Korea and India on their season debut.
Richards has selected an unchanged squad from the last outing. “We played pretty well in Korea so we didn’t see the need to make changes,” said Richards, who noted that attacking wing Aggie Poon Pak-yan is still sidelined by injury and will miss her second tournament of the series.
Hong Kong’s chances to move higher in the rankings would require either China or Japan, who have swapped the titles and runners-up spots over the first two legs, to fall outside of the top four, while Hong Kong would have to at least reach the final this weekend.
“It doesn’t seem likely due to the consistency of China and Japan this season,” said Richards. “We would have to reach the final while one of the others would have to have a steep fall. We are more focused on our own performance and consolidating our third placed finish.”
Instead, Richards will be looking for a breakout performance against first China in the pool stages. “We would like to perform better against China. From what we are hearing they will have a totally different team in Sri Lanka compared to what we have seen so far, with players being drawn from a new province. Who knows what will turn up but most of the provincial sides in China are pretty similar and we are expecting that they will again be very competitive,” said Richards.
“We want to consolidate our third place finish and also to play better than we have done so far. Training has been going well and the girls have put a lot of work into this weekend so now we just need to perform,” Richards added.
The tournament is being live streamed at www.asiarugby.com
Hong Kong: Cheng Ka-Chi, Christy (captain); Natasha Olson-Thorne (vice Captain); Nam Ka-Man; Candy Cheng Tsz-Ting; Amelie Seure; Sham Wai-Sum; Colleen Tjosvold; Kwong Sau-Yan; Lindsay Varty; Chong Ka-Yan, Adrienne Garvey, Yuen Lok-Yee.
Additional reporting and image: HKRU
Looking to complete a wire-to-wire finish after sweeping the first two legs – beating Sri Lanka in both finals. Hong Kong men’s teams head to Colombo for this weekend’s Sri Lanka Sevens, the final tournament of the 2016 Asia Rugby Sevens Series.
Coach Gareth Baber’s men’s team will clinch first place for the third time in the last five seasons with a top three finish this weekend having comfortably won every cup final this season aided by their main rivals Japan sending untested teams to the previous two legs. In the absence of Japan, Sri Lanka has loomed as the largest threat to Hong Kong’s dominance, a threat that will be even more ominous this weekend when the Lankans play in front of their fervent home supporters in Colombo.
With Mark Wright and the McQueen brothers out of action, Baber has made three changes. Forward Jack Capon comes into the team alongside Tomasi Lawa who is returning from a lengthy injury lay-off. Former U20s sevens player Jason Jeyam has also been handed his senior sevens debut.
“It is good to have Tomasi back,” said Baber. “He picked up a nasty ankle injury before the series last year that kept him out for a lengthy period. He has worked hard on his recovery and it is great to see a player come back and return to play at the same level as before their injury.Tomasi is a great asset in a squad of 12 with his versatility. He can play in either the backs or forwards, is a good ball carrier and strong in the offload. He can also help us win ball in the air with his size.”
Jeyam is set to make his senior debut after returning from university in the United Kingdom. “Jason has been training with the squad since June. He kept in good communication with us while he was away, updating us on his rugby, and he has impressed us since coming back. He has those attributes that you look for in sevens: pace, good spatial awareness and a very good individual skillset.
“He has played a lot at U20s level and was a key member of the successful U20s 7s sides of recent years. It is exciting to see another young player coming through,” Baber added.
Hong Kong’s pool sees South Korea, Malaysia and Japan rounding out the day one opposition. Hong Kong’s first match will be against a weakened Japan team that has fallen to its lowest spot on the series table in recent memory.
“We never underestimate any team and will be treating this Japan side as if it were the same as the one that played in the Olympics. We have our own objectives from the series and want to work on ourselves this weekend. Our focus is on getting the players to recognize what tournaments like this present for them and us, the opportunity to maintain a consistent approach.”
Barring a shock collapse in form, Hong Kong’s previous efforts should see them claim the Asian title. “There is still a chance that we finish outside of number one. Effectively we need to reach the last three. If Sri Lanka were to win the final and we fell to fourth or fifth there is a mathematical chance that they could win the Series,” said Baber, who knows the hosts will be up for the challenge.
“Sri Lanka at home with a sniff of first place will prove a tough environment – the toughest so far on the Series. But this is the type of environment we want to play in. We want to test ourselves and to be put under pressure, to challenge the players to put out their best performance no matter the conditions.”
Knowing the atmosphere that awaits Hong Kong Baber is even more pleased to be handing debuts to Lawa (2016 Series) and Jeyam (senior debut). “It’s one of the pluses of giving those opportunities to Tomasi and Jason. It will present a bit of a new look to the field and gives us the opportunity to develop our guys while posing slightly different questions to what we have done so far.”
The tournament is being live streamed on Asiarugby.com
Hong Kong: Max Woodward (Captain), Jack Capon, Michael Coverdale, Christopher Maize, Lee Jones, Cado Lee Ka-To, Ben Rimene, Tomasi Lawa, Jason Jeyam, Rowan Varty, Ryan Meacheam, Salom Yiu Kam-Shing.
Additional reporting and image: HKRU