Hong Kong struck gold on an enthralling night in Jakarta, beating Japan 14-0 in the Asian Games final on Saturday.
Tries from Yiu Salom and Alessandro Nardoni secured the historic gold, ending a run of two successive defeats to Japan in the last two Asian Games finals.
For some players, being involved in the final eight years ago provided motivation for the win, as witnessed by stalwart Ben Rimene.
“It feels awesome to win the gold medal. There has been a lot of hard work over the years to get Hong Kong rugby and the sevens squad to where we are now,” said Rimene.
“This is Salom’s third Asian games and it’s great to see him get that gold medal.”
With their 15s compatriots in the Rugby World Cup repechage in November with a chance to qualify for next year’s tournament in Japan, the feeling in the Hong Kong camp is good.
But Rimene is quick to point out the support of the fans who have stood with the side in the tougher times.
“The squad appreciate all the support from the fans,” added Rimene.
“They have seen the ups and downs over the years and supported us throughout. On behalf of the squad and management, a big thank you to the fans!
“A lot of the squad was involved in the 15s campaign this year. Their success is a reflection of their hard work and it does help build a good vibe in Hong Kong rugby overall.
“The younger players really benefit from playing high level rugby and it shows with players like Max Denmark.”
Next for the sevens program is the upcoming Asia Rugby Sevens Series which starts in two weeks in Hong Kong, before rounds in Korea and Sri Lanka.
“It’s important that as an overall squad we enjoy what we have achieved at the Asian games,” explained Rimene.
“We then have to shift our focus to the upcoming ARSS.
“Our aim is always to win these tournaments but we know it will be hard and we have to keep our standards high on and off the pitch. There is a large pool of players to pick from so competition amongst the squad is keeping everyone grounded.”
Former head coach Dai Rees was also sideline to witness the historic moment, and he spoke to Asia Rugby as the whistle blew.
There were five guys who were here eight years ago,” said Rees.
“We’ve played second fiddle for eight years. It is just so overwhelming you can see the emotion on the guys faces it is unbelievable.
The likes of Yiu Salom and Jamie Hood were here eight years ago and it’s magnificent I am just delighted for Paul (John) and the players.”
Photos: Ivan Shum / Clicks Images