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WORLD RUGBY SEVENS CHALLENGER ROUND 3 2024 - DAY 1 REVIEW

[19 May 2024] The Hong Kong China men are still chasing the dream of playing in Madrid for a place in the HSBC SVNS Series next season after putting in strong performances on day 1 in Munich, while a young women's squad faced some tough matchups in Krakow in beautiful European weather on Saturday 18 May.


Hong Kong China Men March On in Munich

Racking up 99 points in their opening two matches with wins over Mexico (54-7) and then Tonga (45-5), the men already knew their place in the quarterfinals was secured before playing their final pool game against Uganda.


The noisy crowd in Munich added to the festival atmosphere and the Hong Kong China men knew they could not rest on their laurels as they opened their account against a Mexican team they had beaten 39-0 in Montevideo.


What will most have impressed the coaches was the ruthlessness and lack of complacency in the match as James Christie scored the first try within the first minute before Max Denmark got to stretch his legs for a try on the right side to open up a 12-0 lead.


Further scores from Christie and Seb Brien saw the side take a comfortable 26-0 lead at the break. 


Under blue skies, Callum McCullough and Harry Sayers scored their first tries of the weekend to lead 40-0, with only one conversion being missed. 


Fong Kit Fung added the 8th and Liam Doherty the 9th try (with 8 different scorers) to make it 54-0. The only slight blemish was a late try conceded with the result in no doubt and a final score of 54-7.


Hong Kong China faced a new-look Tongan side in Munich knowing a win would see them through to the quarterfinals in Germany (and the Germans themselves also looking on course to make the knockouts).


The men quickly found themselves on the scoreboard but not after Liam Herbert had to track back 70 metres to prevent a try with a great tackle. On the counter, Stiles threw a big dummy before scoring and converting with Callum McCullough adding a second try shortly after. 


Before the tournament, Head Coach Jevon Groves had talked about focusing on their restarts and the team was laser-focused – time and again competing and breaking the Tongan lines with good hands and kicks behind their defence after securing the restarts.


Brien and Stiles both added tries to lead 26-0 at the half and the side showed good balance and accuracy.


The second half continued in the same vein with Denmark collecting a try after a long kick-through, before Bryn Philips collected one himself after he kicked through to recollect under the posts to extend the lead to 40-0. 


Much like in the first game, the only slight blemish was conceding at the end, as Tonga got on the scoreboard after a well-worked try.


The commentary team noted that Hong Kong China men’s biggest win was a 47-0 victory over Jamaica in 2022 and although they couldn't match that, a late set move from a scrum saw Bryn Phillips add his second try to end the match at 45-5 – with the side only conceding two tries after two games.


Hong Kong China Men played Uganda in their final pool game, knowing a win would secure a place at the top of the pool and a quarterfinal against the best-place team first up on Sunday.

5 Ugandans were also playing for the first time outside of Africa and they had beaten Tonga but struggled against Mexico in the first half - but Hong Kong China needed to focus on getting a win, and if possible, by as big a margin as possible in case points difference came into the calculations on Sunday.


The match was the toughest test of the day and the African side proved it by scoring first and leading early on 7-0. However, the Hong Kong China men calmly responded from the restart with Seb Brien scoring the first of his four tries in the game while Max Denmark also got his name on the scoresheet in the first half as they led 19-7 at the break.


Seb Brien completed his hat trick early in the second half before Uganda added a second try to make for a nervous few minutes before Brien nailed his 4th try and sealed the match 33-12 and an undefeated first day.


Jevon Groves said at the end of the day that he was pleased with the team and the performances. “We had asked them to play with speed and we were accurate in attack and turned the ball over well in defence and scored some nice tries.”


Hong Kong China will play Tonga in the Cup quarterfinal on Sunday and the Head Coach added, “We have to reset ourselves now and focus on day two. It's always tough playing Tonga but if we focus on the things we can control, we should be in a good place. Hopefully we can put in the performance tomorrow.”


Hong Kong China's Hugo Stiles added: “We’re starting to play the brand of rugby we know we’re about. We’ve got some really talented players who, ball in space, can look really dangerous.


"We’re quite a momentum team so building into the tournament like that is exactly what we want to do. It’s very much a game by game mentality and we do know we’ve got to finish on top of Germany because it looks like the top three have found their space in Madrid."


  • Hong Kong China 54-7 Mexico

  • Hong Kong China 45-5 Tonga

  • Hong Kong China 33-12 Uganda



Hong Kong China Women Face Tough Matchups in Krakow

The Hong Kong China women, who ventured to Krakow, Poland with sevens debutants, found it tough going in their opening two pool matches against Thailand and China, losing both before a final match against Czechia - who had also lost to China but beaten the Thais.


In the opening match against Thailand, a young and inexperienced squad on the international stage conceded some early points to a hard-working Thai team and found themselves 14-0 down within two minutes.


A third score followed as the Hong Kong China women were tested by some strong running from their opponents, as well as from under the high ball from the restarts. A purposeful attack did come after they managed to keep the ball in hand well towards half time, but they were unable to convert the opportunity.


Thailand extended the lead to 33-0 in the second half but Hong Kong China did well to stay in the fight and a great strike play through the Thai defence from Stephanie Chan saw her score her first try in the Series to make it 33-7. A second score quickly followed as a chase after a kick-through, a fantastic moment for Hui Man Ling as she scored her first international sevens try on her Challenger debut to end the game 33-12.


The second match against powerful favourites China, who by the close of play had secured their place at the HSBC SVNS Playoff in Madrid, saw Gu Yaoyao score within 30 seconds and it was a tough fixture from there on for Hong Kong China.


The Chinese added a couple more tries before the half to lead 19-0 but coaches Paul John and Andy Vilk know in the long run this experience and depth building is vital for HKCR's long-term strategy. 


In the second half the women were not able to find a way past a strong defence with the Chinese running out 34-0 winners.


Coming into the final match against Czechia, Hong Kong China was 8th and the opposition 9th in the standings but both were unlikely to make it to Madrid.


The Europeans started strongly as Hong Kong China conceded an early try, one of four Czechia tries in the half that meant they led 26-0 at the break.


The coaches rallied the team at the half, and Hong Kong China came out and played with a lot more confidence from the restart, but were always chasing the scoreboard. 


The Czechians did add a brace of tries in the second half to run out 36-0 winners which will see the Hong Kong China women playing PNG in the 9th place semifinals on Sunday.


  • Hong Kong China 12-33 Thailand

  • Hong Kong China 0-34 China

  • Hong Kong China 0-36 Czechia


*Both Sunny Lee and Morgan White were also in action on Saturday as match officials.


Information and Photo source : Hong Kong China Rugby

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