HK7s: Japanese Women’s Side Regain Core Status, As Men Battle It Out

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Japan Rugby Sevens players (in white) compete against Guam during the women's pool matches of the Asia Rugby Sevens qualifiers at Hong Kong Stadium on November 8, 2015. Japan won 53-0. AFP PHOTO / ISAAC LAWRENCE (Photo credit should read Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images)

The Hong Kong Sevens holds much appeal. It’s history and range of competing teams gives it a unique place on the calendar. It is more than just the core men’s sides who ‘battle it out’. There are multiple events occurring, with the Women’s competition extremely important. And as the Japanese Women’s side regain core status [lost in 2016] you see the rewards and prestige of the HK7s event.

Japan played in the World Rugby HSBC Women’s Sevens Series qualifying tournament, and overcame a strong South African women’s team. They win back their spot lost at the end of the 2015/16 season. A pleasing result, which builds on the high expectations for rugby in Japan–with the 2019 Rugby World Cup only two years away.

As well as the women, a men’s Sevens Series Qualifier was also being contested. It ran concurrently beside the main event at the Hong Kong Sevens (HK7s).

Day One HSBC Sevens Series

The core-status sides in the series only had one game each today, with the other two games being played tomorrow on So Kon Po Stadium. Some of the highlights from the opening day included Dan Norton finally breaking the all-time try scoring record to go clear at the top with 245 tries. Tom Mitchell joined the 100 tries club too when he crossed over against South Korea. Those achievements, among several players reaching 50 caps; including Cecil Afrika (see picture below), which is just a taste of the action expected this weekend.

Cecil Afrika competes during the South Africa v France match at Hong Kong Stadium (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Day One results: Australia 22 Samoa 19 | England 52 South Korea 0 | Argentina 22 Scotland 14 | United States 14 Russia 7 | New Zealand 19 Wales 7 | Fiji 36 Japan 0 | Canada 17 Kenya 14 | South Africa 17 France 10

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Japanese Women’s Side Regains Core Status After Winning Qualifier

The Japanese team claimed victory, to regain their core status in HSBC Women’s Sevens Series, beating South Africa 22-10. It was pure determination and their will to play until the final whistle, that got them through. The Sakura Sevens didn’t panic when Nadine Roos opened the scoring, to give the Africans a 0-5 lead. Their resolve was tested even further when Zenay Jordaan grabbed the second try for the Rainbow Nation.

Under pressure, it was left to big Fijian-born Mateitoga Bogidraumainadave to find the hole up the middle, to put Chisato Yakoo away. The two teams headed to the break with Japan trailing 7-10.

From the restart, it was all one way traffic from there, as the Asian girls raced away to their victory 22-10. As a result of winning, Japan will replace the bottom placed team from the 2016/17 Series.

Women’s Sevens Reaching New Heights in Standards

From the opening match, it was grueling two day qualifying tournament. Highly entertaining rugby played by all sides, which unearthed new stars. Teams like Italy and Belgium surprised everyone, and will be the ones to watch in years to come.

Cup Quarter finals results: South Africa 29 Papua New Guinea 7 | Belgium 14 Netherlands 12 | Italy 26 Kenya 7 | Japan 28 China 14

In the semifinals, three tries from South Africa was enough to put away the feisty Belgian side, that surprised everyone in Hong Kong; 17-7. In the other semi, Japan ran riot over Italy 31-0, in a one sided affair where the Japanese showed their experience. They then secured their core-status for next season and proudly represented the culture of the Japan Rugby, and the Sakura Sevens.

 

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Men’s Sevens Series Qualifier: Day One

As detailed here, this is an important step for the tier-two sevens nations. All 12 sides have goals of reaching the ‘big time’ and Day One was a fine example of the growing standards across the game.

Papua New Guinea look good in winning two-from-two at the HSBC Sevens Series Qualifier. The Pukpuks Wesley Vali is one who is on top of his game. Arthur Clement and young Gairo Kapana were devastating with their frequent runs. Together with Emmanuel Guise and Hensley Peter, PNG looked in control. Their final game with Spain will be one to watch in Pool G.

The Spaniards under Pablo Feijoo’s tutelage started well, winning both their opening games. They look like a well polished side, with all their experience shining through. Senior players like Ignacio Martin and Pablo Fuentes were influential, beside Pablo Martin. Guyana and Uruguay have lots of soul; searching to do on Day Two.

Pool G results: Papua New Guinea 26 Uruguay 21 | Spain 47 Guyana 5 | PNG 31 Guyana 5 | Spain 36 Uruguay 0

Germany looks like a team to give Spain a real run for their money here in Hong Kong. They were impressive in their opening games, winning each in their Pool E. They walloped Jamaica and Uganda, and are likely to walk over Tonga; who looked lethargic, when losing their key-match. Uganda could claim the runner up spot in this pool with Jamaica learning all they can.

Pool E results: Tonga 0 Uganda 29 | Germany 31 Jamaica 12 | Tonga 14 Jamaica 5 | Germany 24 Uganda 0

Chile and Hong Kong will fight out Pool F with Sri Lanka and Namibia finding it hard to get going. With former Welsh World Cup Sevens winning Coach Paul John at the helm the hosts Hong Kong a different style of rugby. There is more urgency and self belief in the faces of the hosts and they can go all the way here to earning that core status spot up for grabs.

Pool F results: Chile 38 Sri Lanka 0|  Hong Kong 22 Namibia 7 | Chile 26 Namibia 14 | Hong Kong 31 Sri Lanka 5

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So the opening days of the HK7s week have seen much action already. As the Japanese Women’s side regain core-status, it demonstrates the important step that Hong Kong is for teams other than the leading teams.

Sevens is a global sport, and besides the Olympics, events like Hong Kong and Dubai exemplify the reach that sport has. Bringing nations like Sri Lanka and Belgium onto the same fields that England, New Zealand and South Africa play on. It certainly is ‘the true Mecca’ of all sevens tournaments.

“Main photo credit”

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