Hong Kong’s youth side suffered a heartbreaking semi-final loss to Tuva Youth on day two of the Coral Coast Sevens in Fiji on Thursday, while the women’s side won one and lost one to progress to Friday’s quarter-finals.
Hong Kong picked up where they left off in the opening match of the day, with Fong Kit-fung, Paul Altier, Marcus Ramage and Max Denmark running in tries as they opened up a 24-0 lead against First Light Taveuni in the quarter-finals, before hanging on to win 24-19 despite fading late.
A Max Denmark try saw them leading 7-0 in the semi-final before eventual champions Tuva Youth pulled ahead to win 12-7 in a game that could have gone either way.
“For us it was about looking at performances and ultimately we came up a little bit short [in the semi-final] but we have learned a lot through that game so as long as we take that on board and learn from that then it’s not a wasted opportunity, but something we will grow from and can put into practice when the pressure comes on in future tournaments,” coach Stephen Dowse said.
“I thought Liam Herbert was very good, his work rate off the ball in particular was outstanding and Thaddeus Summers coming on, his effort, you can coach all of the skills and everything like that but when a break is made if you’ve got three or four guys willing to chase back and the opposition only have one in support, then you can save tries.”
A host of the podium programme players will now continue to train with the senior team and Dowse is confident the experience gained in Fiji will ensure his side are well-placed when Asian competition rolls around.
“As a group we will turn our attention in the sevens format to the under-20 Asian sevens series which hopefully is over two legs again and we can put what we learned here into practice over the next few months,” he said.
It was Chong Ka-yan who got Hong Kong’s women moving in their opening match against Striders, with the pacey winger scoring the opening two tries on the back of some good grunt work from Natasha Olson-Thorne.
But Striders hit back to erase a 12-point deficit and run out 21-17 victors despite Chong crossing again to complete her hat-trick.
Hong Kong recovered in a 17-10 win over Nadi Aviators on the back of two more tries to Chong and one to Nam Ka-man, setting up a quarter-final clash with Fijiana Makosoi.
“I think the first game really showed what the Fijian style of rugby is and I believe we can adjust to that. We just need to focus on ourselves and perform to our best,” Hong Kong captain Christy Cheng Ka-chi said.
“We are always happy to win but there is always something to work on. We feel like we could have won the first game and the girls went back to the hotel after the first game disappointed but we showed that we can refocus, which is important for two- or three-day tournaments.”
Cheng praised Chong for her five-try return: “She is on form all the time, she works very hard. Everyone has a role and her role is as a finisher and she definitely gives us that. We are very pleased to have someone like that with a good attitude, good skills and good speed.”
Paul John’s men kick off their campaign on Friday and with it their preparation for April’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
“This competition is the best way to prepare for the big tournaments we have coming up,” John said.
“If we come away from here having seen progress in the way we play, manage our ball better and defend better I’ll be happy.”