The second Asian Schools Rugby Sevens Championship at Under 18 level was worked off in Hong Kong from 22 to 26 July. The first Asian School Boys Rugby Sevens Champions was also held in Hong Kong last year and was an important milestone in Asian rugby development when eight national representative teams participated. This year two additional teams will take part in which event which will see the participation of future stars of Asian rugby. The host team Hong Kong are defending champions. The Asian Schools’ Rugby Sevens Championship that is held for the 2nd successive occasion will feature 10 teams grouped into in two groups. The official draw that was held on the 11th of July by the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) saw Sri Lanka placed in Group B alongside Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Mongolia.
The Sri Lanka Under-18 team qualified to play in the Cup semi-final after topping Pool B in the Asian Schools Rugby 7s Championship with a fine display of skill and finesse at the Kings ground in Hong Kong yesterday. Debutants Sri Lanka beat Thailand by 19-12 and beat Malaysia 29-21 before thrashing Mongolia by 52-0 in their group games to play in the Cup semi-final at 2.10pm local time. Prior to that they will have their final group stage game against Cambodia. With a strong side Hong Kong dispatched their three opening pool opponents beating China 33-5, Guam 50-0 and India 56-0. Gallant Sri Lankan led by speedy wing three quarter Henakankanamge Naveen were really unlucky to be deprived the Cup championship by a whisker when they went down fighting to Hong Kong 12-19 in the semi-finals.
Hong Kong went onto win the Cup final by beating Thailand 14-7 for the second successive time. The final didn’t go all Hong Kong’s way; with Thailand taking a 7-0 lead before tries from Paul Altier and Ryan Walker either side of half-time gave them the victory. Hong Kong captain Mark Coebergh starred in his team’s win being involved in everything from scrum half. The 18-year-old’s impressive performance was the difference between the two teams. “To be completely honest, against Singapore (in the final pool match) after losing to them 5-21, I sort of lost my cool, but I just had to learn from that, let it go and move on and I’m happy with my performance” Coebergh said. Hong Kong coach Fan Shun-kei said, “To win this tournament was our goal for the weekend but our loss to Singapore earlier today made our team heads down. As a team we drove back up and obviously it paid off as we still achieved our goal in the end by winning the championship,” he said.
Earlier in the day Plate champs Sri Lanka routed Cambodia 53-0 in their last pool match while plate finalist Singapore who lost to the Lankan side 7-33 in the finals, shockingly thrashed Hong Kong 21-nil in their last pool match but went down to Thailand by 19-14 in their semi-final match. The promising results saw Hong Kong atop Pool A heading into Sunday’s competition with a final group match against pool second-seeds Singapore at 1.30pm. Singapore had a strong outing on day one with an upset 28-7 win over China positioning them for a run at the Cup. Following the completion of pool play, the top four teams overall (first and second placed finishers in the two pools) will crossover for the Cup semi-finals. On the inaugural playing of the competition in 2013, Hong Kong were crowned Cup champions in an 8 team competition beating Chinese Taipei 24-12 in the Cup final. The Sri Lanka Under-18s, led by S. Thomas’ College winger Naveen Henakankanamge are in top form and are gearing up to reach a possible passage to the Cup final. The Sri Lanka U-18 7s squad: Naveen Henakankanamage (Captain), Christian De Lile (both S. Thomas’), Sumudu Rankotge, Harith Bandara, Chamod Fernando (all Isipathana), Diluksha Dange, Anuka Boyagoda, Avishka Shiek (all Trinity), Chathura Seneviratne, Vinul Fernando (both St. Joseph’s), Diyath Fernando (St. Peter’s), Dinuk Amerasinghe (St. Anthony’s).