It was a great weekend of party, alcohol, costumes, and yes of course rugby, as the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens 2010 came to a close on Sunday with fireworks in the air.
As always, the organization off the field was top-notch in Hong Kong, and each year somehow gets better and better.
There were definitely more in the stands this year, and the range of costumes ranged from the Mad Hatter and his Alice to Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. I seriously doubt any of these characters were written to have jugs of Carlsberg and Pimms in hand, though!
On the field, it was a great final two rounds of the tournament, with England falling to a very impressive Samoan side in the semifinals.
Samoa somehow can turn on speed, power, and flash with relative ease, letting their opponents think they have the upper hand. That is how Australia were lulled into a false sense of security despite leading most of the game.
Samoa, with Mai and Pesamino in top flight, are unstoppable, and they were just that in reaching their fourth consecutive final in the IRB Sevens Series.
The other semifinal saw what could have been the final—Fiji up against New Zealand.
New Zealand were dominant from the start, and with Tomasi Cama and DJ Forbes leading from the front and feeding the ever impressive Kurt Baker on the wings, the Kiwis were just too strong for the Fijians.
Zar Lawrence was probing the Fijian defence with his incisive runs, and was key in helping Baker score his fourth try in the game to lead 33-21.
A Fijian fight back was crushed with that try, and despite a brilliant try at the buzzer by Beci, the Fijians were defeated by the Kiwis to see a rematch of Wellington’s final—Samoa vs New Zealand.
The finals series, which saw the Shield, Bowl, and Plate finals being plated first was a great warm-up to the Cup Final.
Hong Kong overcame a Russian comeback to win the Shield with a electric hometown crowd backing them all the way, with 19–17 being the final score.
Little Keith Robinson looks like a 15-year-old that would need to have his ID checked at any of the establishments in Wanchai, but on the pitch his play is nothing short of brilliant. His change of speed and deceptive strength in breaking the tackle has seen this diminutive No. 10 the toast of the Hong Kong, and soon international, crowd.
Canada overwhelmed defending World Champions Wales 35–19 in the Bowl final, with Wales having a very disappointing final after a shock loss to Hong Kong in the pool rounds. Philip Mack for Canada has been impressive all weekend, and he again was the rudder in the Canadian ship.
For the first time in Hong Kong, the losing Cup quarterfinalists ended up in a plate competition, and so Australia faced reigning IRB World Sevens Circuit Champions South Africa for the plate.
Australia looked the dark horses, with a young side and two players on crutches due to injuries. The South Africans have always looked strong, but somehow when it came to the crunch this season, have crumbled.
Australia opened the accounts, with nice, solid possession for the first minute and half seeing Coleman ghosting through for the try. South Africa hit back with some nice running lines, but dropped balls, notably from former South African under-20s captain Cecil Afrika denied them crucial points.
With the score at 7–5 and the clock ticking down to halftime, the South Africans decided to take a cynical penalty conversion that is usually frowned in Sevens. The purists cheered when Africa missed a easy kick in front of the posts and South Africa squandered a subsequent chance to score at the hooter.
Those mistakes came to rue the Africans, as Coleman once again scored for Australia to seal the game, and the young Aussies overcame the established South Africans. Michael O’Cornnor, coach of Australia, was a happy man, and his counterpart Paul Treu immediately had some words to say to the referee.
So on to the finals, Samoa versus New Zealand.
New Zealand looked dangerous from the get-go.
Samoa conceded an early scrum in their half off the kickoff, and the subsequent play set up a platform where the Kiwis displayed excellent passing and running lines.
A brilliant hard line run off Tokuula saw Baker score under the posts, Cama converting, and New Zealand led 7–0 just minutes into the game.
New Zealand would score again, and Samoa looked to be on the back foot trailing 14–0. Samoa, though, was not done, and as stated earlier have the ability this season to turn it on when needed.
New Zealand wasted some chances to score, and some handling errors in their half gave Samoa the opportunity they were looking for.
Pesamino, the circuit’s current try scorer, sliced through the Kiwi wall, and offloaded to Mikaele for the score. As the half loomed, there was a scuffle on the sidelines which saw Samoa’s Mai sin binned.
A couple minutes later, another intentional foul play saw Baker off for New Zealand for 10 minutes. Six-a-side rugby it was until the half, with Samoa again powering through for a try to trail two points at the hooter.
A clever draw and switch move saw Pesamino score under the posts for Samoa, and they now led 17–14 with all players back on the field.
New Zealand were attempting a comeback to regain their lead, but handling errors failed them at each attempt. They just could not execute when needed, and a short inside ball saw Pesamino score under the posts which sealed the game. A late Kiwi try was not enough, and the game ended 24-21, with the Samoans winning three titles on the trot.
And so it ends, another fantastic Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens in the books. The rugby was great, the party awesome, and the crowd par none.
That is one of the reasons the Hong Kong Sevens will always be the home of the Olympic sport of Sevens no matter what others say!