South Korea sounded an early warning to their rivals that they will be a force to reckon with at the Asian Games in Guangzhou when they successfully defended the Shanghai Sevens title on Sunday. Korea overcame partisan support and a strong challenge from hosts China in the Cup final to emerge worthy 38-17 winners to win the first of two ranking events in the IRB Asian Rugby Sevens Series.
Korea sounded an early warning to their rivals that they will be a force to reckon with at the Asian Games in Guangzhou when they successfully defended the Shanghai Sevens title on Sunday. Korea overcame partisan support and a strong challenge from hosts China in the Cup final to emerge worthy 38-17 winners to win the first of two ranking events in the IRB Asian Rugby Sevens Series.
The victory will pour cold water on the theory that Korea are a spent force in Asian rugby circles, and will firmly establish their credentials as serious contenders for a gold medal at the Guangzhou Games in November. Korea showed plenty of bottle to ward off all challengers in Shanghai. They knocked out much-fancied Japan 33-12 in the semi-finals before storming to victory past China in a high-scoring final where they always looked in control.
Mercurial Korean back Kim Won Yong, last year's player of the tournament, again tormented his opposition in Shanghai with a hat trick of tries to help propel Korea out to a 24-7 lead at halftime, a gap that China was unable to bridge.
Korean coach Kim Yun Ki looked ahead to the Asian Games saying, "We currently have four of our sevens players playing in the Top League in Japan this weekend. We will get those players back and have a month to prepare for the Games including playing in Borneo. I believe that with these players in the team we will be even stronger in Guangzhou."
The win over Japan will be a welcome boost to Korea who seem clearly focused on winning an Asian Games gold medal. The result will be an eye-opener for the rest of the chasing pack, especially Japan.
Japan had stormed back from a 17-0 deficit to defeat arch-rivals Hong Kong 22-17 in the Cup quarterfinals. The victory continues a grim losing record for Hong Kong who has lost their last four outings against the Asian powerhouse - twice in the regional sevens competition last year, in the gold medal final at the East Asian Games and on the second day at the Hong Kong Sevens in March.
Hong Kong head coach Dai Rees refused to be downhearted by the loss to Japan and firmly believes the two sides remain potential rivals for the coveted gold medal at the Asian Games in Guangzhou in November. "At the end of the day, we are still the top two teams in Asia," Rees said. "But the curse continues, our losing streak against Japan goes on. We played very well, but against a side like Japan, you have to nail that one per cent and we didn't do that today."
Hong Kong scored three early tries to take a 17-0 lead. They could have gone ahead 24-0 but a breakaway try was disallowed and they were called back for a scrum inside their 22. Japan won the scrum and scored a length-of-the field try just on halftime. "That was a bit unfortunate as we could have put the game beyond them," Rees said. "Then the momentum swung their way soon after the break when we missed a tackle to concede a soft try."
Malaysia fielding a Fijian brigade easily booked their berth in the Cup semi-finals with a 28-0 victory over India while home team China gave their supporters plenty of cheer as they rolled over Guam 31-0. Defending Shanghai Sevens champions South Korea had a more arduous path to the final, coming up against stiff opposition from a gutsy Sri Lanka outfit before scraping through to a 21-14 victory. Korea upped the tempo and their game in the semi-finals against Japan breezing through to a 33-12 victory while in the other semi-final, China buoyed by support from the home fans edged out Malaysia 19-12.
In the third place playoff, Japan defeated Malaysia 27-5 to clinch the bronze medal. Hong Kong finished fifth in the tournament by winning the Plate competition with a comprehensive 52-5 victory over Guam. They had earlier defeated Sri Lanka 42-12 in the Plate semi-finals.