Hong Kong wrapped up another perfect Asia Rugby U20 Sevens Series at King’s Park on Saturday, beating Malaysia 52-7 in the Cup final to successfully defend their regional crown and maintain an impressive unbeaten run spanning two years of the competition.
In a repeat of the 2014 regional series, the Hong Kong Rugby Union’s junior men’s team won both legs of this year's circuit – the U20s Johor Sevens and this weekend's Hong Kong tournament – without losing a match.
“It feels amazing,” said skipper Richard Lewis. “The boys performed really well and we’re happy with our performance. We really feel that we deserved to be Asian champions again.”
HK Women U20 take third
The Hong Kong women’s U20 squad completed an impressive debut in the series at the same time Saturday, taking third place in the second leg at King’s Park to finish 2015 series runners-up behind Japan.
Playing in front of strong home support on the second day of the Hong Kong tournament, the hosts' U20 men ran rampant through their regional opposition – dumping UAE out in the quarter-finals 41-7, before blanking China 22-0 in the semis.
Their annihilation of Malaysia in the Cup final emphasised Hong Kong’s dominance and brought the squad’s final points differential for the weekend to plus-225 (253 for, 28 against).
Christie, Evans, Archer top guns
Stand-outs James Christie and Timothy Evans accounted for nearly half of those points. Christie finished as the Hong Kong tournament’s top scorer with 48 from four tries and 14 conversions. Evans was the top try-scorer with eight cross-overs – a pair of conversions brought his points tally to 44.
To ram home the message to their regional rivals, Hong Kong’s Daniel Archer was the second leading try-scorer with seven.
For influential captain Lewis this was his final U20s series as he and a number of team-mates – vice-captain Eric Kwok Pak-nga, Calvin Hunter and Hugo Choi Ho-ching among them – will now graduate to senior rugby.
But Lewis was unfazed by any negative influence their departure might have on the junior squad. “After back-to-back championships I think we’ve left the programme in good shape – and in good hands,” he said.
“The new boys who have come through this year have been amazing ... and I’m looking forward to watching them play on the big stage next year.”
HKRU head sevens coach Gareth Baber, who has been talent-spotting during the Asian U20 series, commented: “Both Hong Kong teams [men and women] have done a great job over the last few days and last week in Malaysia as well.
“We’re very proud of all of them and as you can see in the final with the boys winning by a very respectable margin, they worked hard and now they’ve got their just deserts.
With an eye on November’s Asia Rugby Olympic qualifiers, Baber added: “There are a couple from this team who are competing with the senior men’s squad at the moment, namely Calvin Hunter, Eric Kwok and Richie Lewis.
"This is the purpose of these tournaments, for us to see how these players perform at the Asian level. And there are a few in these squads who with a little bit of development and coaching will be getting into a position to compete with the seniors.”
After reaching the Cup final on their international debut in Johor Bahru last weekend, the Hong Kong U20 women received a rude wake-up call at King’s Park on day Friday, when they lost all three of their round-robin matches.
Finishing bottom of the pool set up a challenging semi-final against Japan, but despite losing that match 40-12 the young Hong Kong women showed real fighting spirit to hammer a strong Thai team 41-7 in the third-place play-off match.
HKRU women’s development manager Sam Feausi said of the squad’s performance: “We’re extremely proud of how the girls played today [Saturday]. They didn’t let their heads down after yesterday. They applied what we discussed last night and we saw the results out on the pitch.
“The team have done very well throughout the series. From when they first gathered as a training squad they’ve grown immensely. And they have improved dramatically over the two tournaments.”