Sri Lanka will aim at breaking through the shackles placed on them by Hong Kong when the islanders get ready to host the third and final leg of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series, at the Race Course in Colombo. The final leg of this series is scheduled to be held on October 15 and 16.
Hong Kong seemed to know how to throttle the Sri Lankans (Twice Cup Championship runners-up) who have given a strong message to all Asian teams that they are kings where speed and footwork in rugby union are concerned. But the speed aspect alone didn’t help against Hong Kong in both the first and second legs as the heavier made opponents found their way to the try line using physical strength combined with tactical play. They were strong in contact and ruck situations and also displayed ‘strong legs’ when they spotted open spaces and exploited cracks in the Sri Lanka defence. Hong Kong also dominated territory and showed how to preserve possession. They are in the driving seat to win the Colombo leg of the tournament. Players in the likes of Lee Jones, Rowan Varty, Ryan Meacheam, Chris Maize and Cado Lee carry Hong Kong’s hopes of finishing on a high in this tournament.
Sri Lanka’s main worry right now are injuries to key players like Jason Dissanayake, Kutti Dixon, Sudharshan Muthuthantri and Saliya Handapangoda, the latter who stood out in the second leg in South Korea. His try saving tackle in the Cup final against Hong Kong was awe inspiring!
Hong Kong didn’t do anything fancy and played intelligent rugby to expose weaknesses in the Sri Lankan side. Sri Lanka lost in contact situations, especially the tackle, because they lacked size. This has been a key feature in why Hong Kong often runs away with the game when they play Sri Lanka in any form of rugby union. Hong Kong beat Sri Lanka 22-17 in the first leg and 36-0 in the second leg in South Korea.
This time around, Sri Lanka is pooled long side China, Chinese Taipei and Singapore while the other group comprises Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea.
The good thing about Sri Lanka’s sevens team now is that it has the potential to surprise the opposite team. The Sri Lankans have always performed well when a set of players make many tours together and create that sense of understanding among each other.
Skipper Danushka Ranjan has led from the front and the pace and skills he exhibits have a positive trickledown effect on the rest of the team. Some of the other players who have stood out in this Asian Rugby Sevens Series are Dulaj Perera, Dissanayake and Omalka Guneratne.
One notable feature in this tournament is the improvement made by most of the Asian teams that are in the fray. South Korea is once again a force and experienced the thrill of pulling off a win against mighty Hong Kong in the second leg. The Koreans had wins over Japan, Chinese Taipei and finished third in the second leg after beating China 29-12.
Japan, who have already qualified for the World Series Sevens, are fielding a development side. The Cherry Blossoms finished seventh in the second leg of the tournament.