Hong Kong took strides towards the future on day one of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier at So Kon Po on Thursday, getting stronger as the day got longer and capping their efforts off with a stirring 17-12 victory over Kazakhstan.
It wasn’t enough to see the local side safely into the second day’s play but, coupled with an improved second-half display in a 17-7 loss to China, it had Hong Kong looking confidently at the Asian Games in Jakarta this August.
“It was a great way to end the day and that’s what we take out of it – we got better every game,” said Hong Kong coach Kevin West.
“I think that perhaps in a home tournament we applied too much pressure on ourselves and we didn’t need to. By the time we were relaxed and playing the game we wanted to, it was the second half against China.
“It was building towards the Asian Games. Last time we played China we lost by 40 points. Today, 19-7 and then we beat Kazakhstan. That shows us that if we get it right, yes we can medal [at the Asian Games].”
The star of the Hong Kong win was the bustling Natasha Olson-Thorn, who was everything in the first half and seemed to inspire her teammates.
West also praised the efforts of the newcomers to the Hong Kong squad in Vivian Poon Hoi-yan, Agnes Chan Tsz-ching, Amber Tsang Wing-chi, Stephanie Chan Chor-ki and Agnes Tse Wing-kiu.
The pre-tournament loss of speedstars Aggie Poon Pak-yan and Chong Ka-yan was always going to make life hard but West and his charges took fate on the chin.
“We showed we can compete,” said West.
“Losing our two speedsters was always going to make it difficult for us but that’s not to make excuses. We knew we would have to play for longer.
“We created against China out wide but just couldn’t compete [against their speed] but we created and that’s the positive.
“I’m delighted with all of them. They all stood up and came to the party. With the depth we are growing that was fantastic.”
The game of the day came when fierce regional rivals South Africa and Kenya met in the afternoon with Pool X – and bragging rights – up for grabs.
The South Africans were beaten finalists here last year and had downed Kenya the past two times they have met but the tables were turned on Thursday. Kenyan coach Kevin Wambua said his team were out to make a point and it was heard loud and clear as they overran South Africa 24-12 to win the pool.
“South Africa is one of our greatest rivals. We’ve lost to them in two finals but this time the girls were not going to take that again,” said Wambua.
“In training we have been superb. We want to go all the way and this is a huge boost in morale for tomorrow. These girls have come a long way and to be playing now at the Hong Kong Stadium is something special. Hopefully we can go all the way.”
China also went through to the quarter-finals unbeaten and simply overran the more fancied Brazilians 31-5 in their last game to top Pool Y.