Japan lose on opening day, but still win the second leg of the Asian Sevens in Hiuzhou.
The second leg of the three-tournament Asian Sevens had a opening day full of incident and surprise, but in the end the same name on the trophy.
Thailand are always capable of a surprise, and did so in the opening round of pool games when they beat Kazakhstan, after a strong first half.
It was a result that made the final game of the day all the more remarkable. Japan had not lost to Asian opposition since October 2016, but two first half tries from Balzhan Koishybayeva and Nigora Nurmatova put the Kazakhstanis – who had to win the game, after their opening pool defeat – a 14-0 halftime lead. Japan battled back to within two points, but Darya Tkachyova ended the game with a third Kazakhstan try and a 19-12 win.
The semi-final places were therefore down to the outcomes of the final pool games, and big wins for Kazakhstan and Japan saw both into the final four, where they met China and Hong Kong, with the more usual outcomes – comfortable wins for Japan and China.
And so to the final, and on home soil China seemed transformed, tries from Yang Liu and Wanyu Wang giving them a 12-0 lead at the break, a lead they kept into the final three minutes, when Yume Oruroda pulled a try back for Japan, only for Qi Su to restore China’s lead to 17-7.
Into the final minute – and desperate defence from China saw them concede a yellow card, and within 30 seconds Chiharu Nakamura had pulled a try back. 17-12 to China. Then, from the restart, Raichelmiyo Bativakalolo scored to tie the game. Time for one more play, and Honoka Tsutsumi saw a gap in the Chinese line to sprint away and score the winner.
A dramatic comeback – and Japan had won again.
Pool C: Kazakhstan 5-12 Thailand; Japan 54-0 Singapore; Thailand 33-0 Singapore; Japan 12-19 Kazakhstan; Kazakhstan 47-0 Singapore; Japan 27-0 Thailand
Pool D: Hong Kong 22-7 Sri Lanka; China 56-0 Malaysia; Sri Lanka 5-20 Malaysia; China 45-0 Hong Kong; Hong Kong 31-0 Malaysia; China 46-0 Sri Lanka
5th-8th Place Semi Finals: Malaysia 19-5 Singapore; Thailand 31-5 Sri Lanka
Semi-Finals: Japan 33-12 Hong Kong; China 21-10 Kazakhstan
7th Place Match: Singapore 15-10 Sri Lanka
5th Place Match: Malaysia 0-36 Thailand
3rd Place Match: Kazakhstan 19-17 Hong Kong
Final: Japan 22-17 China
After two rounds*: Japan 16 pts; China 14; Kazakhstan & Hong Kong 11; Thailand 8; Malaysia 5; Sri Lanka 4; Singapore 3
(Assuming 8pts for a win, 7pts for second, etc.)