China have won Asia’s Olympic qualifier for the 2020 Games in Tokyo
In the end it was a fairly straightforward win for China in Asia’s Olympic Qualifier, on home soil in Guangzhou as their main opponents fell away.
Eight teams travelled to China for the qualifier, seven from the Asian Championship plus Trophy winners the Philippines, taking the place of Japan who had already qualified as hosts.
In practice, however, only Hong Kong, Kazakhstan and perhaps Thailand represented a threat to the Chinese, as only these three had ever seriously troubled them in recent years.
China had drawn Hong Kong in the pool, but almost contemptuously swept them aside in the final game of Day One, wining 42-7. In truth the gap seems to be growing between the two teams, this was China’s third biggest win against Hong Kong, having recorded their best ever win in their previous meeting.
Kazakhstan won the other pool after surviving a scrap with Thailand, a team who can spring surprises but tend to be inconsistent, 17-12 also at the end of the first day.
This seemed to set up a likely final between the Kazakhstanis and China – they just needed to get past a young Hong Kong team in the semi-finals, which they totally failed to do. Tries from Ka Man Nam and Natahsa Olson-Thorne in gave Hong Kong a 12-0 lead at halftime. Nigora Nurmatova pulled a try back early in the second half, but Kazakhstani frustration got the better of them as they were unable to break down the Hong Kong defence, culminating with Balzhan Koishybayeva receiving a yellow card with just two minutes to go. Florence Symonds added a third try for Hong Kong shortly after, and it was game over.
After that the final was as one sided as previous recent results suggested it might be, China scoring five unanswered tries, despite being reduced to six players for a period.
China are therefore the final regional qualifier, joining Kenya (Africa), Brazil (South America), Great Britain (Europe), and Fiji (Oceania), as well as Japan and the top four from last year’s World Series (New Zealand, United States, Canada and Australia). Two places remain, to be decided at next year’s repecharge, which Hong Kong and Kazakhstan will now attend.
Pool A: Hong Kong 27-7 Sri Lanka; China 49-0 Korea; Sri Lanka 19-5 Korea; China 42-7 Hong Kong; Hong Kong 47-0 Korea; China 55-0 Sri Lanka
Pool B: Thailand 33-0 Singapore; Kazakhstan 34-5 Philippines; Singapore 20-19 Philippines; Kazakhstan 17-12 Thailand; Thailand 36-0 Philippines; Kazakhstan 46-0 Singapore
5th-8th Place Semi Finals: Singapore 19-7 Korea; Sri Lanka 12-10 Philippines
Semi-Finals: Kazakhstan 7-19 Hong Kong; China 34-0 Thailand
7th Place Match: Korea 5-31 Philippines
5th Place Match: Singapore 12-33 Sri Lanka
3rd Place Match: Kazakhstan 17-14 Thailand
Final: China 33-0 Hong Kong