Hong Kong was crowned Asian sevens champions after they won the third and final leg of the Asian Rugby Football Union’s Asian Sevens Series in Beijing defeating South Korea 36-19 in the Cup final on Sunday.
Hong Kong's Rowan Varty breaks away for one of his two tries in the final. Photo: Kenji Demuar/RJP
Two tries each from veterans Rowan Varty and Nick Hewson, plus tries from Lee Jones and skipper Jamie Hood, paved the way for what in the end was a comfortable match made easier in the second-half when Korea was down to six men after a sin-bin.
The victory extended Hong Kong’s domination of the series, winning all three legs, to finish unbeaten this season and allowing Hood and his team to wrest the title away from Japan. Hong Kong also won the series in 2012.
“We have continued the momentum that we started at the beginning of the Series in Hong Kong and we have come away with three tournament wins and we are very happy with that,” said pleased Hong Kong head coach Gareth Baber.
“The goal that we set ourselves was to be number one in Asia and progress as a squad and force our way into contention to play in as many competitive tournaments as we can. The Asian Sevens Series was one of those goals and it was certainly one of our goals to be at the top of that tree when the final came around,” Baber added.
Hong Kong and South Korea, who finished second in the overall standings, will also qualify for the 2015 Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens which will host an IRB Sevens World Series qualifying tournament to decide the core team to be promoted next season.
Japan defeated Sri Lanka 24-19 to finish third in the Beijing event. Japan had earlier lost to South Korea in the semi-finals. Korean captain Lee Yong-seung scored the match-winning try after the hooter had sounded to give his young team a fantastic 24-21 victory.
The third place finish sees Japan finish in third on the Asian Series behind Hong Kong and South Korea.
Korea fielding a side mostly drawn from the universities trailed Japan 14-7 at halftime, and then 21-14, before two late tries saw them enter their second Cup final in the three-legged series this season.
Lee was superb as he dotted down from a last-gasp move to give the Koreans their second win over Japan in the series, having beaten them in the semi-finals in the first leg in Hong Kong too.
Japan had looked a shadow of the team that won the gold medal at the Asian Games in Incheon. The Asian juggernaut had made wholesale changes ahead of Beijing, bringing in 11 players, and the failure to gel proved costly for coach Tomohiro Segawa’s side.
Japan only just squeezed past Kazakhstan, 14-12, in the quarterfinals continuing their stuttering run from the first day when they had two narrow shaves beating the Philippines, 21-19, and China, 26-14, in pool play. But Korea didn’t let Lote Tuqiri’s team get off the hook pulling off a tense win.
Hong Kong had earlier beaten Sri Lanka in the other semi-final 26-0, after having demolished Thailand 55-0 in the quarterfinals.
A hat-trick from barnstorming forward Max Woodward was enough to take care of Sri Lanka who never really looked like they could match Hong Kong in the contact areas.
In the women’s competition, Japan defeated China 24-19 to win their first tournament this season. Japan had also defeated China in the preliminary round and the second loss could be a sign of a slight shift in power in the women’s game.
China had no answer for Japan's Mifuyu Koide who scored game winners in both the pool stages and final. PHOTO: Kenji Demura/RJP
“We are very happy. This season has been very difficult for us and we had many difficult situations this season but we were hungry to win this tournament,’ said Japan coach Akane Kagawa.
“Our players are not very big physically compared to the other teams but as a team we have a great team spirit and a great team ethic and our strength this weekend has been playing rugby as a team and this was our best rugby so far this year,” Kagawa added
China, who qualified as a core team on the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series in September, had their work cut out beating Kazakhstan in the semi-finals. It took a try from the last play of the match to allow China to eke out a 17-14 victory after having led 10-0 at halftime.
Japan booked their berth in the final with a 17-0 victory over Hong Kong. Japan’s superior defence laid the foundation for victory as they put pressure on Hong Kong, who although enjoying loads of possession in the match, could find no way through.
Hong Kong had a consolation 14-12 win over Kazakhstan in the third place play-off.
“It was a fantastic game, we started really well and then we let them back in from our mistakes, but the girls realized what they were doing and I thought they played exceptionally well this weekend. They really put it out there and gave it their all the whole weekend and I couldn’t be happier with our final result,” said Hong Kong coach Anna Richards.
Team China are the 2014 ARFU Asian Sevens Series Champions. Photo: Kenji Demura/RJP
Despite being pipped in their home cup final, China’s earlier win in Hong Kong and its runners-up position in Beijing were enough to see them crowned Asian sevens champions in 2014.
Japan finished level with Hong Kong on the series table but edged them into second based on a superior points difference in matches between the two sides throughout the series.
Kazakhstan men topped off a superb performance from a young side to claim the Plate in Beijing while the hosts China rebounded from a disappointing day one to take the Bowl off of Singapore.
The Thailand women’s seven won the Plate in Beijing, beating Sri Lanka in the final.
Hong Kong wing Tom McQueen finished as the Series' top try scorer with 19. Photo: Kenji Demura/RJP.
Hong Kong’s Tom McQueen and Jamie Hood finish at the top of the men’s scoring table after the three Series events. Hood finished with 113 points from 39 conversions and seven tries. Tom McQueen scored 19 tries over three tournaments to finish as second highest scorer on the Series with 95 points. Korea flyhalf Oh Youn Hyung finished in third on the scoring table with 76 points from four tries and 28 conversions.