Hong Kong Sevens: Favorites Cruising Through On Day Two

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DJ Forbes of New Zealand (C) is tackled by Fiji players on the second day of the Rugby Sevens tournament in Hong Kong on April 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Anthony WALLACE (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)

It was another thrilling day at the So Kon Po Stadium, with some entertaining rugby sevens played with the favorites cruising through. Fiji and New Zealand could find themselves ‘fighting it out’ another final–but don’t count out the Blitzboks or the United States teams.

The English could literally turn up tomorrow, and run rampant. As could their conqueror of Day Two; the Aussies. On the other hand, sides like Argentina or Canada could surprise us all. In all the years of the World Series, it has never been so close–which is fantastic for the sport.

Papua New Guinea continues its dream run over in the Men’s World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier. Spain too look hot favorites to regain core-status, with Germany to offer the biggest hurdle, along with Chile.

HK7s: Favorites Cruising Through on Day Two

As teams completed the pool stages at the Hong Kong Sevens, the cream rose to the top. And admittedly, the regular sides appeared again to have their fingers on the pulse. Their game is at a higher level, although not without some mis-steps and points scored against them. Analyzing the results, the Lowdown is that every team has to be peaking by Sunday morning….don’t hold anything back!

The LOWDOWN – Day Two

Pool A – England, Australia, Samoa, South Korea

The Australians saved the best for last, as they overcame England to top Pool A. Henry Hutchison led the onslaught with James Stannard and John Porch both is supreme form, as they worked overtime to turn one over the champions from Vancouver [England]. The Aussies were semifinalists here last season; can they go all the way?

HONG KONG – APRIL 08: Henry Hutchison of Australia is tackled during the 2017 Hong Kong Sevens match between England and Australia at Hong Kong Stadium on April 8, 2017 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Hutchison (see above picture) loves to score, and he broke English hearts to help his team dismiss their opposition. Stannard converting from the sideline is another key asset–if the scores are close, every team needs a player to give them that ‘little extra’. England had a poor Day Two, but they still can prove spoiler in the knockout stages.

Andre Coquilard of South Korea stole the hearts of the fans at the So Kon Po Stadium, when he grabbed two tries against Samoa. Even though their team went down fighting 22-12, his star is on the rise. However, both teams will go down to the bottom tier Champions Trophy competition tomorrow. Samoa continues to improve; yet not excel, with the South Koreans acknowledging the experience will add to their skills base.

Pool A results: England 12 Samoa 10 | Australia 52 South Korea 0 |Samoa 22 South Korea 12 | England 10 Australia 12

Pool B – South Africa, Canada, Kenya, France

South Africa were rattled early on by Canada, but pulled through in the end to top Pool B. However, they will face an uphill battle in the Cup quarter finals against a resurgent New Zealand side.

Philip Snyman has led his brigade well, along with Cecil Africa. With four key players missing, the side continue to display a strong level of depth. Ruhan Nel and Dylan Sage have really stood up, with Siviwe Soyizwapi and Bronco Du Preez each performing strongly.

Canada might have fallen short today but can redeem themselves when they meet Fiji on Day Three. They need to deny the Islanders possession, while ‘turning opportunities into points’ to finish well. Justin Douglas is having another good outing with Mike Fualeifau. Their presence will be relied on tomorrow.

Kenya and France will fight it out in the bottom tier. Some will say France were unlucky in losing Virimi Vakatawa late Friday to add salt to the wound. The fearsome playmaker was ruled out today, after sustaining another injury. Kenya were off their best, letting down the large supporter base, so on Day Three they must bounce back.

Pool B results: South Africa 35 Kenya 10 | Canada 28 France 14 | Kenya 29 France 12 | South Africa 26 Canada 7

Pool C – Fiji, New Zealand, Wales, Japan

Fiji had to dig deep on the final day of pool play, to earn a quarter final spot. They disappointingly drew with Wales [17-17] then had a ‘must win game’ to beat New Zealand and top the pool. Young star-in-the-making Joe Ravouvou was outstanding for the Kiwis, with Vatemo Ravouvou instrumental for Fiji. However, each were over shadowed by the high skill of Waisea Nacuqu, who is stealing all the limelight in Hong Kong.

Wales were close to their best, but not enough to earn themselves a spot in the quarters. In matching Fiji, they showed more than enough to take some positives from–they only lost to the Kiwis by 19-7.

Japan continues to make inroads, building new combinations with debutante Jone Naikabula looking very impressive, with Siosifo Lisala showing much promise for the Blossoms.

Pool C results: New Zealand 40 Japan 14 |Fiji 17 Wales 17 (draw) |Wales 34 Japan 21 | Fiji 17 NZL 14

Pool D – United States, Argentina, Scotland, Russia

Mike Teo’o repaid the faith coach Mike Friday had in him, by starting him against Argentina–scoring two tries himself, while creating two. He was instrumental; along with Perry Baker, to put away the Los Pumas 33-5. They did well enough to face the English in the Cup quarter final. A tough task, yet Team USA are showing the promise

Vladamir Ostronshko continued his fine form today for Russia, giving all to ‘seal the deal’ against Scotland 14-5. They absorbed all the early pressure from Scotland to win the battle for third place. Scotland have only themselves to blame, as they didn’t execute when needed. A shadow of how they played in Rounds Three, the Bravehearts need to regain that fire that earned them semi final places.

Pool D results: United States 19 Scotland 14 | Argentina 17 Russia 12 | Scotland 14 Russia 5 | United States 33 Argentina 5
Spectators watch the action during the 2017 Hong Kong Sevens at Hong Kong Stadium. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Day Three: Cup Quarterfinals

Australia vs Argentina | Fiji vs Canada | United States vs England | South Africa vs New Zealand
Challenge Trophy Quarterfinals: Samoa vs Scotland | Wales vs France | Russia vs South Korea | Kenya vs Japan

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Men’s Sevens Series Qualifier Reaches Finals Stage

Papua New Guinea continue their dream run in the Men’s Qualifier, outplaying Uganda 14-10 to book a semifinal spot. Securing a place in the World Series will be a ‘dream come true’ for the most populace South Pacific nation. Rugby League is a religion in PNG, and the Pukpuks (Crocodiles) are looking to change that belief.

Chile overcame fellow South American rival Uruguay 21-12 to claim a semifinal place. Hosts Hong Kong only had themselves to blame, as poor decision making cost them the crucial result against Germany. The hosts narrowly lost 14-7, with the Germany crossing the line right at the death from an aimless Hong Kong kick.

Spain overcame Namibia, to book the final semifinal spot 33-0. They appear strongest, but the huge motivation behind core-status is a ‘big cookie’. The semi finals should be epic.

Men’s Sevens Series Qualifier semi finals-

With both tournaments now entering critical stages, it is ‘time to step-up’. Men like DJ Forbes (see main picture) for New Zealand, and Steffen Liebig for Germany are senior men who can make a difference. Beside the young fliers and big-steppers, it will be the teams with the cool heads who proceed through to the finals.

The Sevens Series Qualifier will play out, prior to the Challenge Trophy and the main Cup finals. A huge crowd is expected, at the ‘true mecca’ of Sevens–Hong Kong.

Expect nothing but the best, and Last Word On Rugby wish all the finalists and HK7s organizers a successful Day Three.

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