「挑戰者系列賽」第二站次日賽事 中國香港隊挺身淘汰賽 男子隊獲C 組首名 女子隊初入盃賽八強
Hong Kong, China teams reach knock-out stages at Challenger Series finale Convincing performance from men to top Pool C; Women reach Cup quarters for first time
[ 2023年4月29日，香港 ]: 正於南非泰倫博斯參加最後一站「滙豐世界七人欖球挑戰者系列賽」的中國香港男、女子七人欖球隊第二日繼續保持強勢，仍有機會爭奪銀盃。男子隊以C組首名出線，而女子隊則以最佳第3名（共兩隊）身份角逐銀盃賽。
男子隊教練高勳（Jevon Groves）曾表示C組最後一戰對比利時屬硬仗一場，皆因上站第3名及第4名窄路相逢 ，上週港隊在加時賽力克對手28-21，今次交手前大家都未嘗一敗，但港隊有得失分差的優勢。
比利時實力強悍，但港隊決心鞏固防守終以 17-0 勝出。比利時的空間和控球全場皆受港隊的壓迫，港隊嚴密的防守將比利時的攻勢一一化解並且迫使對手頻頻犯錯。
比利時守將被薩耶斯（Harry Sayers）和 麥堅力（Alex McQueen）力迫下嘗試大腳解圍，可惜誤中副車 ，史戴爾斯 （Hugo Stiles）毫不客氣達陣，助港隊領先 7-0。
比利時下半場甫開賽在無壓力下犯錯將控球拱手相讓，港隊亦利用對手多番被判罰球而步步進逼。丹馬克（Max Denmark）錯失一次達陣黃金機會，但港隊繼續施壓令比利時被罰黃牌而少打一人，韋兆新藉丹馬克的強行突球換取更多進攻空間而達陣 (12-0) 。 麥堅尼韋斯（Pierce Mackinlay-West ）的妙絕傳球令守將鞭長莫及，拜恩塞巴（ Seb Brien）達陣鎖定 17-0 勝果。
下半場港隊還以顏色，耐心地進攻令高香慧（Natasha Olson-Thorne）梅開二度 ，並保持19-7的優勢直至完場，可惜這勝利不足以超越次名出線的波蘭。
資料及相片來源 : Elite Step Asia Limited / Hong Kong Rugby Union
[Hong Kong, 29 April 2023]: The Hong Kong, China men’s and women’s sevens sides reached the knock-out stages of the Cup competition after completing pool play today at the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series in South Africa. The men team topped Pool C while the women finished as one of two top-performing third place teams to reach the Cup competition for the first time.
Men’s coach Jevon Groves had talked about the grittiness of the teams in this competition and the final Pool C match exemplified that with last week’s third and fourth-placed finishers meeting again as Hong Kong faced off with Belgium. Hong Kong edged Belgium into fourth last week, 28-21, in golden point extra time, and both were undefeated in pool play ahead of the game.
The Belgians once again lived up to Groves’ billing, but Hong Kong added tenacity to their grittiness in a defence led performance that paved the way to a clinical 17-0 victory. Belgium were denied space and possession all game as Hong Kong pressed its attack from the kick-off, threatening the try-line for the first two minutes without points to show for it. Belgium’s attacks were quickly extinguished by Hong Kong pressure with numerous tackles behind the gain line contributing to a string of Belgian errors, a habit that increased in frequency as the game wore on.
Hong Kong’s first points came from some great defensive play as Harry Sayers and Alex McQueen charged down a space finding kick from Russell Webb to isolate the Belgian defender deep in his half. A wild pass inside put the Belgian defence in further strife, and a poor clearance kick was charged down by a sniping Hugo Stiles who touched the ball down for the try and a 7-0 lead.
An unforced error from Belgium gave Hong Kong the ball to start the second half and the SAR established a profitable pattern of using Belgian penalties to kick for touch and stage attacking lineouts in their opponent’s end. The first of these saw a try go begging for Max Denmark with a wide pass under pressure from Stiles going through Denmark’s hands at the line. Stiles was tackled late on the play and Belgium were yellow carded, creating space for an easy score from Webb (12-0) seconds later after a strong Denmark carry sucked in the defence. More attacking line-outs kept Belgium pinned down and produced Hong Kong’s final score after Pierce Mackinlay-West conjured up a tricky inside ball to wrong-foot the defence and allow Seb Brien in for the third and final try of a 17-0 win.
“I’m pretty pleased with our play against Belgium. We created a lot of chances, and took a few of them. What was most pleasing was our ability to maintain momentum in the game,” said Groves.
The win sees Hong Kong top Pool C, a marker they had failed to achieve last week. Hong Kong advance to a knock-out quarter final against Tonga overnight (21.45 kick-off).
It will be a rematch of Hong Kong’s cup semi-final last week, a 33-0 loss, and another chance for Groves’ men to atone for a disappointing result from week one.
“We knew coming in that we would need to beat Tonga or Germany to have a hope of qualifying and now we have a chance to do just that. Tonga have shown they have the capability to play on the World Series but they are not unbeatable. They have been challenged in the pools. We need to be at the top of our game, but on balance we have the opportunity we want. But we will need to be more ruthless when we create chances, as we won’t get as many against Tonga as we had against Belgium,” said Groves.
Complicating matters further is an injury sustained by play-making captain Russell Webb, a knee laceration on his kicking leg that will likely side-line him for the knock-out stages in a pivotal blow for Hong Kong’s hopes on the eve of the quarter finals.
“Russ is our 13th man now, and we will move James Christie back in to the squad. He is nursing an ankle injury and Max Denmark has a bit of a groin, so there are bumps and bruises at this stage, but I have the confidence in guys like Hugo and James to fill in, maybe not at Russ’s level because he has been playing really well, but this is a real opportunity for others to step up,” said Groves.
The women’s sevens team opened the action on day two needing a big score against Mexico to secure the runners-up spot in Pool F. Mexico were winless yesterday, losing by big margins against China and Poland. Hong Kong started well but were undone in their points-haul attempt by some unforced errors before eventually producing a 19-7 win.
Hong Kong’s tries came from mid-week call-up Sabay Lynam who finished a nice attacking play of the back of an attacking scrum to put Hong Kong up 7-nil. Mexico replied well, mounting a long period of attack, gifted by some penalties from Hong Kong, as they held onto the possession for most of the rest of the half. Mexico were rewarded for their effort with a try late in the half with two missed tackles from Hong Kong contributing to a Mexico try on the far touch line as they drew level 7-all at half-time.
Hong Kong responded equally well in the second half, led by two Natasha Olson-Thorne tries, both coming from long developing and patient team moves. Hong Kong led comfortably 19-7 by the final whistle but the results saw them miss out on second in the pool which was claimed by Poland.
Instead, Hong Kong finished as the second-best third-placed finisher overall, reaching the cup quarter finals for the first time. Hong Kong have a challenging draw, playing Belgium (kick-off at 19:58).
Information and photo source : Elite Step Asia Limited / Hong Kong Rugby Union