Fiji secured a record fourth consecutive title at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, after they beat Kenya 24-12.
In a repeat of last month’s final in Vancouver, Fiji ran in four tries to move within just three points of series leaders South Africa in the overall standings and take their third tournament win of the 2018 World Series.
Two yellow cards in the first half for Kenya’s Collins Injera and Willy Ambaka allowed the Pacific islanders to take a 17-0 lead at half-time. Despite tries from Kenya’s Billy Odhiambo and Oscar Ouma in the second half, Fiji were uncatchable and cemented their reputation in Hong Kong as the team to beat.
“I’d like to thank my boys for the team effort and thank the Kenyan team for a very good game,” said Fiji captain Jerry Tuwai. “Hong Kong is always special for us, we respect and honour the tradition that Fiji has with the Hong Kong Sevens.”
South Africa claimed the bronze medal after beating New Zealand 29-7 and Argentina beat USA 14-12 to secure fifth. The Challenge Trophy winners were France, beating Canada 33-7.
With the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 just over 100 days away, the seedings for the tournament will be confirmed on Wednesday, as excitement builds for the competition in San Francisco from July 20-22.
The World Series will head to Singapore on April 28/29 after stopping by the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast next weekend.
The first semi-final was between Fiji and South Africa. But before the two sides took to the field, the experienced Fijian, Tuwai and South Africa’s captain in Hong Kong, Dewald Human, shook hands and embraced. A great moment that set the tone for a thrilling semi-final and it was a semi-final of two halves.
The first half belonged to the Blitzboks as Selvyn Davids put a hat-trick of tries on the board to Fiji’s sole score from Kalione Nasoko.
After the break, Baber’s side closed the 5-19 deficit through Samisoni Viriviri and Nasilasila. Nasilasila to put them in the lead 26-19.
The Blitzboks weren’t finished as Muller Du Plessis powered over with 47 seconds left. The conversion missed the mark and Fiji controlled the ball off the restart to to take the match 26-24 and book their place in the Cup final.
In the second semi-final, between New Zealand and Kenya, New Zealand immediately set out their stall through Amanaki Nicole. However, Collins Injera had a response with his 253rd try on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Both conversions were added and Injera finished the first seven minutes by accelerating in again to give Kenya a 14-7 advantage.
Kenya’s defence created their next try as a turnover near their own line was converted by Willy Ambaka going the length of the pitch. New Zealand finished the game with the final say, Jona Nareki and Isaac Te Tamaki combined for one of the tries of the day, but the match belonged to Kenya, 21-12.
Earlier in the day in the World Series quarter finals, France beat Samoa38-0, France outplayed Samoa 38-0, Australia claimed victory over England 17-14, Russia outpointed Wales 15-7. Canada were dominant against South Korea 45-0, Fiji showed their brilliance against Argentina, winning 40-14, South Africa beat Spain 38-5, New Zealand got their revenge against USA with a powerful 35-7 display and Kenya overcame a well-organized Scotland19-12.
In its second year in Hong Kong, the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Qualifier replicates the Men’s tournament model, with the winner being promoted to the World Series. Last year Japan beat South Africa 22-10 to secure core status.
This year, Kenya, China and Belgium topped their pools with three wins from three games. South Africa, Brazil and Wales finished second in their Qualifier sections after two victories. Argentina and Papua New Guinea made the quarter finals as the two best placed teams at level three. Hong Kong again missed out on the quarter finals, and there dream to play in the Stadium at the Sevens
The line-up for the quarter finals was CHN v PNG, BEL v BRA, WAL v RSA, KEN v ARG.
In the semi-final China beat Belgium 22-7, and South Africa overcame Kenya 12-7.
In the final, China looked the part from the off, much improved handling, game plan, jumping, running and ball skills showed how they have grown in stature in the game. Keyi Chen scored a hat-trick and one conversion, with China beating South Africa 31-14 to qualify for the first time for the 2019 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series.
Hong Kong were also playing host to the annual men’s Series Qualifier, a 12-team tournament with the winner being promoted to the World Series. Last year, Spain won the competition beating Germany 12-7.
Hong Kong, with a young team being blooded for the future, lost narrowly to both Germany and Papua New Guinea, before beating Zimbabwe to edge into the quarter finals.
The other quarter finalists, Ireland, Uganda and Germany won all three of their Qualifier games. Japan, Chile and Uruguay won two matches and Hong Kong and Zimbabwe had one win and two defeats.
Hong Kong played Chile but could not progress losing 24-12, much to the disappointment of the home crowd.
The semi-final results were Germany vs Chile (!9-12) and Japan vs Ireland (12-7).
Japan and Germany looked the most polished sides, although only Germany were unbeaten heading into the final. In an end-to-end final, two-try pocket rocket, Siosifa Lisala scored in the corner on the final play for Japan, to beat Germany 19-14 to qualify for the 2019 HSBC World Rugby Men’s Sevens Series. This was the second time Japan had qualified as they also achieved this feat in 2016.
Andrew Wood is a sportsman and sports enthusiast and ex Rugby player in Hong Kong.