While it was business as usual for Hong Kong’s men with a second tournament win tightening their grip on the Asia Rugby Sevens Series, a busy weekend of international sevens produced plenty of surprise results elsewhere to underline the competitiveness of the sport.
Perhaps the most eye-catching result came in Nairobi, where Uganda were deserved winners of the Rugby Africa Sevens after beating top seeds Kenya and Zimbabwe en route to the final against Namibia, which they won 38-19.
"It has been long coming and the boys have finally done it after many years," said the Rugby Cranes’ coach Tolbert Onyango. "We got hungrier and had the belief after we beat Zimbabwe in our first match."
By virtue of finishing in the top two positions, Uganda and Namibia will represent the continent at the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier in Hong Kong next March, with the winner of that tournament gaining core team status for the 2017-18 series.
As African champions, Uganda will also take part in the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens on 2-3 December as an invitational side. They have been drawn alongside South Africa, USA and Scotland in Pool B. Uganda will also be the invited team for the HSBC Cape Town Sevens a week later.
Defending champions Kenya had to settle for a third-place finish in front of their home support after an emphatic 46-0 win over Madagascar in the bronze medal match, while second seeds and last year’s beaten finalists Zimbabwe dropped to sixth.
James Odong and Philip Wokorach played starring roles for Uganda throughout the tournament and the final was no exception. Wokorach, who kicked four conversions, set Odong up for one of his two tries with a beautiful chip and also crossed the line himself as the Rugby Cranes sealed a memorable triumph.
DOUBLE DELIGHT FOR HONG KONG'S MEN
In the Asian Rugby Sevens Series, Hong Kong saw off Sri Lanka in a one-sided final in Incheon, Korea.
The victory was the second in a row for Hong Kong after they romped to the title in the series opener at home earlier this month.
Injuries and a 24-21 loss to hosts Korea in their final pool game disrupted their progress on day one, however they made a real statement of intent in the semi-final with a convincing 29-0 victory against previously unbeaten China.
Sri Lanka beat Korea 26-10 in the other semi-final but were no match for Hong Kong in the title decider, Hong Kong running out 36-0 winners with the outstanding Lee Jones grabbing a brace to finish as top try scorer with seven.
Hong Kong so overwhelmed their opponents that the Sri Lankans failed to cross the halfway line for the entire first half and spent nearly the entirety of the final without the ball.
Gareth Baber’s team top the series table with 24 points ahead of Sri Lanka on 20. China and Korea are joint third on 12 points.
Perennial contenders Japan turned in a disappointing performance in Korea, being beaten four times over the weekend before finishing in seventh place.
In the women’s competition, China exacted revenge for their defeat to Japan in the series opener in Hong Kong with a 21-14 victory over the Sakura Sevens in a pulsating final.
China scored 190 points with only 10 conceded to set up the re-match with Japan, whose progress to the final, other than a tight 24-12 win against Hong Kong in their concluding pool game, was equally comfortable.
China and Japan - tournament winners when Hong Kong staged the first round of the series earlier this month - are now level pegging on 22 points at the top of the table after two events, with Hong Kong back in third on 16 points.
The finale of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series is in Colombo, Sri Lanka, next month.
RUSSIAN WOMEN SPOIL THE PARTY
Like Japan’s women, France fell at the final hurdle in their attempt to win back-to-back tournaments, a victorious Russia claiming the second and final round of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix Women’s Sevens Series in Malemort. As a result, Russia were crowned series champions with hosts France finishing as runners-up.
After France claimed the Kazan Sevens title in June, Russia were out to return the favour against a young France side. Despite getting off to a strong start through Charlotte Torres Duxan’s early try, France were unable to cope with Russia’ pace and power, with the Russians running in 26 unanswered points to claim the title and the overall prize.
England, playing as Great Britain Lions, finished third after a 12-5 win over a spirited Ireland side.
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