Hong Kong Golden in UAE; Defend Title & Sweep Asian Sevens Series
[28 Nov 2022] The HKRU men’s sevens team defended their Asia Rugby Sevens Series title after beating hosts UAE in the cup final in Al Ain, 21-7. The men swept the competition with a perfect three for three cups from the 2022 series. The series win also qualifies Hong Kong for the qualification tournament for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series next year.
“It was a good result in the end,” said Hong Kong sevens coach Jevon Groves of a scrappy and penalty- strewn final.
“We were good in patches, but we made it difficult on occasion. The boys really stepped up in the end. UAE gave us a real challenge. They were in their first final and at home, it was an emotional moment for them, but I think we controlled the ball well when it counted.
“Three from three is hugely pleasing. In Thailand at the beginning of the series we talked about wanting to be consistent and I think we have showed that consistency in the three Asian series legs, and we showed glimpses of it at the Hong Kong Sevens. We used all 21 of the senior players in the squad this Series and everyone got a true opportunity, which is great for the team as a whole,” Groves added.
With nearest rivals South Korea bombing out early, Hong Kong’s men’s team were assured of the series title before the first ball was kicked in anger. Nevertheless, the men did not let up on the gas jumping out to a hard fought 14-0 lead at half-time.
Hong Kong’s first half scores came from a pinballing effort from Liam Herbert who shook two defenders on his way to the line after two minutes, and a Russ Webb finish of a patient attack in the sixth. A yellow card to Max Denmark for tripping towards the end of the first half put pressure on the defence on both sides of the interval but Hong Kong held strong.
Seb Brien led from the front, playing well above his stature with some excellent bruising runs helping to fold the UAE defence in on itself. After more exchanging of infringements, Hong Kong eventually pushed its lead out to 19-0 when a UAE penalty gave the visitors the ball inside the hosts 22-metres.
Fresh from the sin-bin, Denmark made the UAE pay for the indiscipline with an easy try from 20 metres out, crashing through arm-tackles for his eighth try of the weekend - his 17th over two tournaments - confirming his reputation as the most dangerous player in Asia.
The hosts salvaged a consolation score in the final minute, which was good reward for an eye-opening series from the boys in the desert, but Hong Kong had claimed its third gold medal of the Series and set the standard for Asian sevens once again.
Groves spoke about Denmark’s impact saying, “Max is really rounding into form and his conditioning is superb. It is great to see him come back after suffering some pretty serious injuries.
“Of course, Max is only one of 12 or 13 players, and this was a team effort here and across the series, but the three tires he scored against Japan were excellent and it is fantastic to have a player like that in the squad, he is a real point of difference for us.”
Earlier, the side dismantled Japan 33-7 in the semi-final. Hong Kong exerted pressure from the kick-off in what looked to be the complete performance that coach Jevon Groves had been calling for ahead of the weekend.
Japan controlled possession from the kick-off but conceded territory for the first two minutes before spilling the ball deep inside their half. Seb Brien swooped in on the loose ball and took it in for the opening score. Hong Kong looked to have scored a second shortly after Brien’s effort through Fong Kit- fung in the corner but he was felled at the try-line. A knock-on in the ensuing ruck gave Japan the scrum and they produced a jailbreak 95-metre score to take the lead 7-5.
From there on out it was all Hong Kong. The SAR seven stormed back for 28 unanswered points. Max Denmark led the way once again with the burly back proving too much for the defence. He produced a hat trick (bringing his total to seven tries ahead of the final) with each scoring run coming through and, at times, over the Japanese defenders. Brien added a second score in the waning moments and Russ Webb accounted for four conversions as Hong Kong cruised into the cup 33-7 victors.
After a brave performance on day one to emerge from a tight pool with Japan and Kazakhstan, the Hong Kong women’s seven’s cup chase lost steam in a 31-0 loss to China in the semis. Encouragingly, it was the side’s highwater mark for the season.
Thailand proved too strong for Hong Kong in the bronze medal play-off, winning 24-10 as Hong Kong finished fourth. Ay Yeung Sin-yi accounted for both of Hong Kong’s scores in the bronze medal game.
China beat Japan 21-14 to claim the women’s Asia Rugby Sevens Series title for a second straight year and a first under new coach in Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist and Fiji legend Osea Kolinisau.
Informaton and Photo Source : Hong Kong Rugby Union