London, May 12 2013
Hong Kong’s dream of qualifying as a core team on the HSBC Sevens World Series was dashed by Spain who knocked out Rowan Varty and his men in the quarterfinals at the London Sevens on Sunday.
Spain playing a brand of clinically executed rugby scored an emphatic 29-14 victory to kill off Hong Kong’s chances of winning one of three spots available in the HSBC Sevens World Series next season.
The taller Spanish players enjoyed total possession in the first-half to breeze to a 19-0 lead which proved too much of a lead for Hong Kong to haul back. Despite tries from Varty and a late consolation touchdown from Ben Rimene, Spain added two more in-between to win comfortably.
“We couldn’t get our hands on the ball in the first half. It was smart play by them and we struggled to compete against a side which was taller than ours,” said Hong Kong head coach Dai Rees (pictured on the left with Ben Ryan below)
“Against teams of a similar stature, like Scotland, we proved competitive but it was our luck to be drawn against one team which had five players who were over six foot four inches, and it proved decisive.
“But I’m proud of our guys. They have kept us in a somewhat unrealistic position in world rugby. We are not a nation of big athletes and despite having such a small playing base, these guys have raised expectations,” Rees said.
Hong Kong struggled to contest the kick-off and re-starts and this provided plenty of possession to Spain who made the most of it. Tries to Carlos Blanco, Pablo Feijoo and Pedro Martin allowed Spain, one of the three teams relegated at the end of the Glasgow Sevens (Scotland and Portugal being the others), to take a handy 19-0 lead at the break.
“We couldn’t really play our game at all in the first half,” said Rowan Varty (pictured above in blue). “They made it difficult for us and all credit to them. It is really disappointing to miss out again.”
Varty pulled one back soon after the break but Spain maintained their stranglehold through tries from Blanco who completed his brace with a quick tap which caught Hong Kong by surprise. Matias Tudela then sealed the victory with a fifth try before Rimene’s defiant late reply gave Hong Kong a second try.
Rees said Hong Kong should take heart from their 20-19 win over Scotland on the opening day. “We have come a long way and the guys shouldn’t be down in confidence. Our goal is still about winning a medal at the Asian Games next year and qualifying for the Rio Olympics,” Rees said.
Spain will meet Portugal in an all-Iberian clash in the semi-finals while the other tie will be between Russia and Scotland. Russia defeated Zimbabwe 26-7 while Scotland overpowered Tonga 31-0.
The top three countries earn a berth among the other 12 teams in the World Series next season. For Hong Kong, it is another so-close-but-yet-so-far scenario.
“We needed a bit of luck to go our way but that didn’t happen today,” Varty said.
Rees added: “We will pick ourselves up for this and immediately start our preparations for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow at end June. Realistically, with our smaller player base, our focus must be in Asia and there are plenty of goals to achieve, main among them finishing as the top Asian team in Moscow and winning a medal at the Asian Games next year.”
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