HONG KONG – Japan is Rio bound after qualifiying for the men’s sevens tournament at next year’s Olympic Games, beating Hong Kong 24-10 in the final of the Asia rugby sevens qualifier 2015 on Sunday.
Tries by Teruya Goto, Lemeki Lomano, Kazuhiro Goya and Katsuyuki Sakai, who added two conversions, eventually saw Tomohiro Segawa’s team book its ticket for Rio and ensure the rugby fever that has been sweeping Japan since the Brave Blossoms’ good showing at the recent World Cup continues.
In a far tighter final than many had anticipated, Alexander McQueen and Max Woodward gave the hosts a 10-0 halftime lead, the first points Japan had conceded all weekend.
Goto eventually crossed three minutes into the second half as Japan started to erase the errors that had plagued it in the first half.
Lomano and Goya then touched down in the space of a couple of minutes, the latter the result of some great handling by Lote Tuqiri.
Sakai’s try sealed the win and broke the hearts of the hosts.
While the men, who beat China 34-0 in pool play and Sri Lanka 43-0 in the semifinals, were celebrating, the women’s team faces an anxious three weeks.
The women’s competition is a two-legged affair and reaches its conclusion in Tokyo on Nov. 29, the winner determined by the points accumulated during the two tournaments.
A 22-0 victory over Kazakhstan — who Japan beat 7-5 on the opening day — saw Keiko Asami’s team pick up six points as the first-leg winner. But an earlier 12-5 loss to China, which finished fourth behind Hong Kong, in the final pool game, means Japan cannot rest on its laurels.
Mifuyu Koide crossed in the third minute and Japan never trailed as it dominated possession and territory.
Chiharu Nakamura and Marie Yamaguchi also touched down and Yume Okuroda added a conversion as Japan led 17-0 at the break.
The second stanza was much tighter but the Japan defense held firm and a second try by Yamaguchi sent the large number of Japanese fans into raptures.
The Sakura Sevens had earlier opened with Keiko Kato bagging four tries in a convincing 53-0 win over Guam, which was missing one of their star players.
Aria Perez-Theisen was recently crowned Miss World Guam and will be taking part in Miss World International in December and decided the risk of injury could harm her chances in the beauty pageant.
In the men’s competition, Hong Kong, South Korea and Sri Lanka still have a chance of making it to Brazil as they will take part in a 16-team cross continental repechage tournament with one ticket up for grabs.
The sides finishing second to fourth in the women’s competition also have one more shot at making it to the Olympics, which welcomes rugby back into the fold for the first time since 1924.