Mark Coebergh put on an impressive performance in the second Asian Schools Rugby Sevens Championship final at King’s Park on Sunday, leading the Hong Kong team to a 14-7 victory over Thailand. Young Post spoke to the 18-year-old captain about what it takes to guide a team to the final, and keep them focused on the match.
Mark, who in March was named second-runner up for South China Morning Post’s 2015 Student of the Year (Sportsperson), was thrilled that his guidance and game plans helped the city hold on to their title for a second consecutive year.
“I’ve never been in so much pain in my life, but it’s all worth it,” said Mark after the game. “Very tough obviously, very good Asian teams. I’m just so happy for my team, we constantly dug in there and we pulled it off in the end.”
The toughest challenge of the tournament for Mark was bounce back from the team’s heartbreaking 21-5 loss to Singapore in the preliminary round. But bounce back they did, beating Sri Lanka 19-12 in the semi-final, thanks to tries from Jack Abbott and Mark’s fellow under-20 representatives James Karton and Paul Altier.
“We could have done a lot better in the beginning against Singapore,” said Mark, “but we came back from that and beat Sir Lanka, a very tough team as well.”
Mark stressed that the final game was a tough one. “Thailand was sort of unpredictable. We never really knew what they were doing, they always kept us guessing,” he said.
Thailand took a 7-0 lead earl in the match, but Hong Kong strengthened their attack, and Paul Altier and Ryan Walker scored to secure the championship.
Thailand’s captain Thitisan Goodburn, 17, agreed that the final against Hong Kong was very challenging.
“I think we did a very good job. We made some mistakes and let a few tries in,” said Thitisan. “We had to keep pressing them hard and not letting through missed tackles, and not letting them through the lines. But a lot of us were very tired and there were a lot of defensive errors, and we couldn’t keep up with their attack.”
He added that the Hong Kong team taught them a lot about technique and mental toughness.
The championship helped Thitisan realise that physical fitness and experience both play a vital role in every competition. “Stamina is really important,” he said.
Overcoming a frustrating loss, and playing hard straight through to the final whistle, the Hong Kong team showed that they have what it takes to be champions.
“We stuck to our structure and executed our skills well,” Mark said. “I’m so excited and proud of the boys!”