HONG KONG – The Japan sevens teams both finished Saturday unbeaten as they look to book their tickets for next year’s Olympic Games.
The men’s and women’s teams each won three games at Hong Kong Stadium in the Asia Rugby Sevens qualifier, setting them up nicely to progress to their respective finals.
The winner of the men’s final on Sunday automatically qualifies for Rio, while the women’s competition is a two-legged affair that reaches its conclusion in Tokyo on Nov. 29, the winner determined by the points accumulated during the two tournaments.
“It’s been a good team effort from both sides,” said Kensuke Iwabuchi, general manager of the Japan national teams. “The key tomorrow will be consistency and I am certain we can do it.”
Both teams ended the day beating two of their biggest rivals for the ticket to Brazil, the men trouncing South Korea 47-0 and the women downing Hong Kong 36-0.
The men’s team had looked good all day and they carried on their good form against the Koreans, once again keeping their opponents scoreless.
Teruya Goto, Lote Tuqiri and Yusaku Kuwazuru all touched down in the first half and Japan added four second-half efforts as it ended the day scoring 151 points and conceding none.
“Our main goal was to keep the teams scoreless,” said Lemeki Lomano. “In sevens anyone can score points but we pride ourselves on our defense. Everyone worked hard today and got back to support.”
The Sakura Sevens, meanwhile, saved their best for last, having struggled to beat Kazakhstan 7-5 before dismissing Sri Lanka 48-0 earlier on in the day.
Two tries by Yume Okuroda and a five pointer from Ano Kuwai early on ensured the large number of traveling and expat Japanese could be heard above the vocal home crowd, and laid the foundation for the win over the previously unbeaten Hong Kong.
“We were nervous in the first game but changed our game plan,” said Marie Yamaguchi, who along with Chiharu Nakamura and Keiko Koto touched down in the second half.
“In the third game we played our own game, got into position and scored and that’s why we won.”
Earlier, the men’s team took just 15 seconds to record its first try with Chihito Matsui going over for the first of his brace in a 38-0 win over Taiwan in Pool A.
The Doshisha University student then repeated the trick in a 66-0 thrashing of Singapore, with Kazushi Hano and Katsuyuki Sakai also grabbing a pair of five-pointers each as Japan laid down a marker that it is the team to beat this weekend.
Hong Kong is still expected to be Japan’s biggest threat despite being forced to come from behind to beat Sri Lanka 27-12 in the final Pool B game of the day, having earlier beaten Iran 46-0 and the Philippines 29-0.
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