Korea captured its third consecutive Shanghai Sevens title after edging Hong Kong 22-17 with a try in sudden-death in Sunday’s Cup final.
Kim Gwong Min scored the winning try to complete a hat-trick in the final and earn the honours as the Most Valuable Player of the Shanghai Sevens 2011.
Japan beat upstart contenders Kazakhstan 26-7 to take third-place overall while the China Women’s Sevens team beat defending Asian Games sevens champions Kazakhstan 19-10 to win the women’s competition. China took out the Plate in the men’s competition after beating Malaysia 31-7.
After a shock loss to unheralded Philippines on day one, Korea righted its ship on day two to book its place in the final for the third consecutive year in Shanghai against Hong Kong, the in-form team of the tournament this weekend.
Speaking after the emotional cup final win, Korea captain Yoon Tae-Il said, “Our performance improved after day one and we had a good review after losing to the Philippines. We were able to come back and defeat China in front of their home crowds and reach the final where we had as good a chance as Hong Kong … It is fair to say that Hong Kong was the in-form team of the tournament but we looked across from them in the second half and when we were exhausted we could see they were exhausted too. It gave us the lift to come back.”
Continuing its trend of winning the hard way this weekend, Korea conceded a 10-point lead to Hong Kong in the first half of the final through tries to Keith Robertson and Tom McQueen, another player in the running for MVP honours this weekend.
But Korea struck back quickly in the second half through Kim Gwong Min’s first try from the kick-off. Hong Kong replied through Rowan Varty on his tournament debut as sevens captain further widening the lead to 17-5 after Keith Robertson’s conversion. Under relentless pressure from Korea in the second half, Hong Kong conceded a yellow card for interference on the try line. Korea efficiently utilised the man advantage to put Kim over for his second try closing the gap at 17-10.
Korea continued to exert pressure on Hong Kong in the second half, leading to a try to winger Noh Hoon Jae, levelling the scores at 17-all at the end of regulation time.
Hong Kong exerted early pressure from the kick-off of extra time but in the second minute of the five-minute golden point extra-time, Korea managed to fly-kick ahead from ruck ball and the rapacious Kim Gwong Min was again in the right place at the right time. Kim outpaced the Hong Kong defence to chase down the ball and cross over for his third try of the match giving Korea the title with a 22-17 win.
The win marked the third consecutive victory for Korea in Shanghai. Korea also enters the history books as the first ever tournament champions on the new HSBC Asian Sevens Series launched this year. It was also the first win for Korea in the Yuanshen Stadium in Shanghai, which hosted the event for the first time in 2011.
“I don't know what the secret is for us in Shanghai to win three in a row,” said Korean captain Yoon. “We feel really comfortable playing here after our success of the last two years. Maybe it is because they have very good kimchi in China just like we make in Korea! Whatever the reason, I am very happy to lead the team to success and to defend our title.”
Korea reached the final after a 36-7 Cup semi-final win over the hosts, China, a match in which Kim Gwong Min added to his prodigious scoring tally today with a try and a penalty.
It was heartbreak for Hong Kong after reaching the Shanghai final for the first time in the three-year history of the event. Hong Kong narrowly missed out on its own Cinderella story as they were in position to win the inaugural event of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series in Shanghai just days after announcing that HSBC is the new principle sponsor of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union National Teams.
The next event on the HSBC Asian Sevens Series is the Borneo Sevens (24-25 September) in Kota Kinabalu, East Malaysia, where Hong Kong are the reigning champions. Other series events will be held in Bangkok, Thailand and Goa, India in November 2011.