Germany have won the first tournament of the inaugural HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series in Viña del Mar, Chile, after beating Hong Kong 10-0 in a hard-fought final at the Estadio Sausalito.
The 16 competing teams will now move on to Montevideo, Uruguay, where they will play at the Estadio Charrúa in next weekend’s second Challenger Series tournament.
As winners of the Chile round, Germany lead the standings with 22 points, followed by Hong Kong in second on 19 points with Japan another two points further back in third.
"We came to South America with the goal of winning the title and the Challenger Series," said Germany captain Carlos Soteras Merz, whose family hails from Chile. "Our ultimate goal is to qualify for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021."
"I am very proud of the team, their huge commitment and I hope we can repeat the same performance next week in Uruguay."
In a match where points were at a premium, Bastian Himmer's try was the only difference between the sides at half-time.
If there was any tiredness it didn't show as the tackles and the commitment of each player continued after the break. Despite Hong Kong's best efforts, though, they could not find a way over the line and instead it was Germany who scored what proved to the final points of the match, Tim Lichtenberg bursting through the narrowest of gaps to double their lead with five minutes left to play.
Hong Kong tried everything they could to find a response but Germany controlled possession well and were able to see the match through without too many alarms.
In the bronze medal decider, Japan beat hosts Chile 31-14, after expertly taking advantage of a two-minute period at the end of the first half when Los Cóndores Sevens were down to six players. Japan scored two tries through Masakatsu Hikosaka and Jose Seru while Chile were short-handed in defence, and were able to turn a 7-5 deficit into a 19-7 half-time lead.
Yoshikazu Fujita converted his own try shortly after the break before Vicente Tredinick scored his fourth try of the tournament for Chile to make it 26-14 and give the home side some hope. However, Seru's second of the match secured Japan the win.
Tonga defeated Zimbabwe 19-14 to take fifth place.
Lichtenberg double sinks Japan
Earlier in the day, Japan and Germany had made it through to the last four with comfortable victories against Zimbabwe (33-0) and Papua New Guinea (29-0) respectively, while Chile came out on top 28-7 against Tonga. Hong Kong had the toughest quarter-final, a 10-7 win against Uganda.
While the general consensus was that an all-Asian final was in prospect with Japan and Hong Kong in different halves of the semi-final draw, Germany had other ideas.
That said, Germany got off to a slow start and captain Yohito Matsui's try in the final move of the first half was scant reward for the amount of possession Japan enjoyed. A Lichtenberg double changed the momentum of the match, however, Fabian Helmpel converting the first of the tries to put Germany 12-5 up.
With 70 seconds left on the clock, Japan went full-out trying to gain at least a draw to take the game to sudden-death, but the Germany defence stood strong to celebrate a famous win.
Hong Kong show great resolve
Two long-bursting runs from deep from Benjamín Devidts saw Chile race into a 14-0 lead inside the first four minutes of the second semi-final, and it came as a shock when, against the run of play, Hong Kong got on the scoreboard through Yiu Kam Shing.
Chile then received a double blow, conceding a second try to Raef Morrison and losing Rodrigo Fernández to the sin-bin for his late tackle on the try scorer.
Chile survived the period when they were down to six men without shipping any further points and still led 14-12 with the clock running down. However, Kane Boucaut's try three minutes from time ensured it was Hong Kong who made it through to the showpiece match.
As for next week's hosts Uruguay, they got better with each game and finished as the best of the non-quarter-finalists, in ninth, which should bode well for the tournament in Montevideo. They beat Brazil 19-5 and then Italy 29-0 on day two before enjoying a 33-0 win against Jamaica.
Foto: GaspaFotos / Maxi Aceitón