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Hong Kong Beats China to Win HSBC Asian Sevens Series’ Goa Sevens

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Hong Kong has won the Goa Sevens, beating China 43-0 in Sunday’s Cup final.

 Despite blooding six new caps in Goa and fielding another sevens side in a tournament in Australia this weekend, Hong Kong was the form team of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series’ Goa Sevens with an undefeated run in which they scored 203 points while conceding just 26.

Hong Kong started Sunday’s competition with a comprehensive 47-0 victory over the UAE’s Arabic development side UAE Shaheen in the quarter-finals. They then survived a scare against a physical Kazakhstan VII in the first Cup quarter-final. After trailing 14-12 at half, Hong Kong took scored twice in the second stanza to outlast Kazakhstan 24-14 and book its spot in the final against familiar foe China.

In the final, Hong Kong were relentless, shooting out to a 24-0 lead at the half, while starving China of possession. Six players scored tries in the match with Mike McKee scoring a brace in the opening stanza. Other try scorers included captain Simon Leung Ho Yam, Ali McClay, Lee Ka To and Sebastian Alfonsi. Ed Haynes scored a try and added four conversions for 13 points in the final.

The victory for Hong Kong was its first on this year’s HSBC Asian Sevens Series after finishing runners-up in Shanghai and reaching the cup semi finals in Borneo, the two ranking events on this year’s HSBC Asian Sevens Series.

 Hong Kong finished the HSBC Asian Sevens Series 2011 ranked second behind Japan with China, Korea and Philippines joint-third on points.

Hong Kong Coach Alex Gibbs commented on the team’s performance in Goa saying, “I’m very pleased that we achieved our objective of winning but also that everyone contributed and we played for each other. We had to play some tough matches on the way to the final, particularly against Kazakhstan, but we stood up and played the style of rugby we wanted to play. We spread out the scoring in the final as we have done throughout the tournament.”

Hong Kong’s undefeated run to the Cup in the Goa Sevens was even more impressive when considering that the Hong Kong RFU was fielding a squad in the Hyperion Paradise 7s in Noosa, Australia this weekend. That squad reached the Cup quarter-finals against some stiff Australian and Fijian competition down under before losing a squeaker to the Aussie Thunderbolts 21-14.

Coach Gibbs credited the HSBC Asian Sevens Series with giving Asian Unions the chance to develop depth in numbers, saying, “Playing as a core team on the series has been really important for us and I think for all of the teams. In the past we wouldn’t have been able to put out two competitive teams in different tournaments on the same weekend, but this year we have been able to give more players meaningful competition and it is paying off.”

“With the Bangkok Sevens postponed to February we are going to put out a strong team there as a hit out for the Hong Kong Sevens and we are going to go all out next season to reach our ultimate goal of being number one in Asia next season,” added Gibbs.

China progressed to Sunday’s Cup final with a 36-7 win over Singapore in the quarter-finals and a 38-0 win over UAE in the semifinal.

China player-coach Zhang Zhiqang was equally pleased with his team’s performance saying, “Many of our first string sevens players were injured for this tournament so we didn’t have much preparation. We had to recruit players at the last minute and didn’t arrive until Saturday morning after travelling for 24 hours. With this kind of build-up, I was delighted that we could still reach the Cup and beat an HSBC World Sevens Series team like UAE in the semi finals. Winning three matches on Saturday after arriving that morning was a victory in itself.”

“We identified some new players this weekend and that will add to the depth of the squad and make us better for upcoming tournaments like the Bangkok Sevens and Hong Kong Sevens,” added Zhang.

UAE won the 3rd/4th place bronze medal match defeating Kazakhstan in a close run match 19-12. In the Plate final, two teams making their debut appearance on this year’s HSBC Asian Sevens Series played a nail-biter with Iran emerging as champions after edging Singapore 12-7.

Hosts India beat the UAE’s Arabic development squad, UAE Shaheen, 33-nil in the Bowl final. Indian captain Rohan Sethna scored in the final to extend his record of scoring a try in all of India’s matches over the tournament, while Vikas Khatri scored a brace of tries in the final to see hosts India salvage some silverware from its home sevens.

Mr Pramod Khanna, President of Rugby India commented on a successful weekend of rugby in Goa saying, “This is the first time that we have staged a major international event here and the signs are very promising for continuing to host rugby competitions here. The strong turnout by local youth has also given us the confidence to further extend our development programme in Goa and with the cooperation and support of ARFU and the Goa RFU I am confident that rugby has a bright future in Goa.”

With the postponement of this month’s Bangkok Sevens due to the flooding in Thailand, the Goa Sevens marks the final HSBC Asian Sevens Series competition in 2011. The Bangkok Sevens has been postponed to February 2012 where it will represent an important hit-out for Asia’s top teams ahead of the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in March 2012.

Final Standings Goa Sevens 2011

1. Hong Kong
2. China
3. UAE
4. Kazakhstan
5. Iran
6. Singapore
7. India
8. UAE Shaheen

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