Fiji's victory brings back good memories
Updated: 2013-03-26 08:02
By Tang Zhe (China Daily)
Wales' Lee Williams (bottom) is tackled by Fiji's Ilai Tinai in the final at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens on Sunday. Fiji beat Wales to win the championship. Fiji now sits in second place in the overall standings, 25 points behind New Zealand. Bobby Yip / Reuters
Serevi watches his team take yet another Hong Kong Sevens title
It's safe to say Waisale Serevi likes Hong Kong.
Fiji's successful title defense at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens gave Serevi a chance to reflect on his own memories of the tournament he utterly dominated for years.
Serevi, 44, has lifted the Hong Kong Sevens Cup seven times, and is the only player to receive the Leslie Williams Trophy - given to the player of the tournament - three times. He was also named player of the tournament for his team's winning efforts at the 1997 and 2005 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Hong Kong.
After being inducted into the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame on Saturday, the "King of Sevens" watched Fiji came back from a 19-0 halftime deficit to successfully defend its title and become the first team to win two Cups this season.
The Fijians celebrated with Serevi's son on their shoulders, much as he did at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2005 in the same stadium.
"I feel great," Serevi said. "It is an honor to win this Hong Kong title. It is important for Fiji. It is like winning the World Cup. It is the pinnacle of the series.
"When I come to Hong Kong, it is like I am 18, I would love to run on the field. This is where it all began and I wanted to keep playing every year. I saw the boys with Junior, they know him, so that was great."
Serevi has been introducing rugby to children around the world since his retirement. He headed up a series of coaching clinics during the tournament, aimed at introducing children to the game and developing Hong Kong's future stars.
"Without Hong Kong, there is no Waisale Serevi, so I'm happy to be back in the territory to participate in this amazing week and give back to the local youth players," Serevi said. "Our coaching staff is very excited to share our vast on-field and coaching experience with players from beginning to advanced."
Defending champions Fiji scored three tries in as many minutes to be back on level terms before Osea Kolinisau, who had been on the subs bench in the first half, sealed victory just before full-time with his hat-trick try of the game.
"We were not doing what we should have done in the first half, letting Wales come at us," Fiji coach Alifereti Dere said. "But we settled down in the second half and found our rhythm."
Wales is currently the World Cup Sevens champion but has never won a Sevens World Series title. This was its first final in Hong Kong.
"We lived with Fiji, we were 19-0 up, but we couldn't get the ball in the second half - we tried our best, the guys were excellent and that was a good final," said Wales coach Paul John.
The Hong Kong team pulled off a shock 7-5 Bowl quarterfinal victory over Argentina, before beating the US in the semis. It lost to England in the Bowl final.
"Hopefully we can prove to the other teams here that we are in amongst them and gain a bit of respect from them," said Hong Kong Sevens captain Rowan Varty.
"I feel sorry for all the other teams in Hong Kong because the crowd is unbelievable, they really get behind us and it must be a nightmare to play against," he said.
New Zealand gained 17 HSBC Sevens World Series points to remain well clear at the top of the standings with 113 points by defeating Kenya, 36-5, in the third-place playoff. Fiji is second, 25 points behind New Zealand, with Samoa, the Plate winner in Hong Kong, four more points back.
Portugal, the US and Spain currently occupy positions 12-15 in the standings. The teams in those positions at the London Sevens will battle it out with Hong Kong, Russia, Georgia, Tonga and Zimbabwe for three core team spots in next season's HSBC Sevens World Series.
"We're loving the intensity of global competition exemplified here in Hong Kong. We've had some real surprises here," said IRB chief executive officer Brett Gosper. "Twenty-three of these teams will be in Russia for Rugby World Cup Sevens and we're looking forward to a great RWC Sevens in Moscow. It's a big event and a huge stadium, which will have a huge festival atmosphere around it."
AFP contributed to this story.
(China Daily 03/26/2013 page23)