KOTA KINABALU: Japan successfully defended its HSBC Asian Rugby Sevens Series 2102 title in a nail-biting final against Hong Kong at the Likas Sports Complex here recently.
Although trailing 12-17 in the first half, Japan bounced back in the second half with four tries and three conversions making the final points tally 33-22 at the end of the 20 minute match.
Coach Tomohiro Segawa said he was confident of winning the match as long as his players kept possession of the ball.
“I asked the players to keep two things in mind - get possession of the ball from kick-off and don’t concede any penalties. I am very happy with the performance of the players and that we were able to defend the title.
“They played hard for 20 minutes and although the Hong Kong team are very experienced, I was confident that we can win if we kept possession of the ball and kept on attacking them,” Segawa said adding that he was also grateful to the supporters and fans of the team.
Next for Segawa and his boys is preparation for Shanghai Sevens.
Captain Sakai Katsuyuki was equally ecstatic with retaining the tournament title and said he was confident that Japan will win the match even though Hong Kong was leading in the first half.
In the Asia-Pacific Women’s Rugby Sevens final earlier, first timers to the tournament, Australia defeated Japan 36-17.
Coach Chris Lane said he was proud of the spirit the Australian team showed in the last few minutes especially with six players on the field.
“That just showed the real Australian character, the true Aussie spirit that I asked for before the start of the game. The standard of the tournament has been very competitive, and the standard of Asian rugby has been impressive, particularly the work ethic of all the teams.
“We had two big wins on our first day but the girls said the opposition just never stopped trying. Japan beat us in the first round (14-10) and we are very grateful for the chance for revenge and to have won with six players on the field in the end,” he said.
Earlier in the semifinals, Australia had created an upset when it beat defending champion Papua New Guinea 12-7 and in the other semifinals Japan defeated Hong Kong 38-0.
Earlier in the HSBC Asian Rugby Sevens Series 2102 Bowls final for ninth and tenth spot, Malaysia’s last hope of salvaging some pride went up in smoke when despite leading went down 12-19 to Sri Lanka.
The Malaysians despite leading 12-7 in the first half, were unable to defend the in the second half, to allow Sri Lanka to score a try and convert a goal to take the lead at 19-12 and maintain it until the final whistle.
Sri Lanka’s coach Ben Gollings said he was happy with the win as his players had performed to expectations.
“We set out to win both games today and we did which is all we can ask for,” said the former England sevens player.
He added that the team will go back home and start preparing for the Shanghai Sevens which will be held in three weeks time.
For Malaysian coach Yusli Ramli, the performance of his team was good and said that the team was let down by injuries among the players.
“Injuries suffered by key players were among the factors that we lost. As far as performance was concerned, both teams were balanced. To me Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand are all of the same standard.
“Whoever makes mistakes will lose. In our case injuries to a few players and coupled with a few mistakes, resulted in us losing the game. We also lacked in fitness, I am confident that with a higher level of fitness, we could have beaten them (Sri Lanka),” Yusli said.
Malaysia in the Bowl semi-final in the morning had defeated Singapore 26-5, while Sri Lanka had won their semi-final tie against Thailand 22-5.
In the Plate final for fifth and sixth spot, Taiwan beat the Philippines 31-12.
In the Women’s Bowl final for ninth and 10th spot, Singapore beat South Korea 29-0, while in the Plate final for seventh and eighth spot, Kazakhstan beat China 29-14.