England start well in HK
March 28, 2003

The superpowers of the sevens world have again demonstrated their prowess on the first day of the 2003 Credit Suisse First Boston Hong Kong Sevens.

Top pool seeds New Zealand, England, Fiji, Australia, South Africa and Samoa all won their opening matches, with South Africa posting the greatest margin of victory with a 54 - 0 drubbing of Sri Lanka, while England recorded a 52 - 0 victory over Singapore.

In other action, Wales drew with Cook Islands 10 - all, while Scotland beat Korea 28 - 12. Canada beat Japan 24 - 12, while Kenya edged Hong Kong 15 - 10. Australia beat China 40 - 7.

Attendance for day one was over 15,000. Hong Kong Rugby Football Union Chairman John Molloy commented on the opening night, saying "The HKRFU is very happy with the attendance tonight, particularly in light of the current situation.

"We believe our decision to offer people the opportunity to attend or to avail themselves of the full ticket refund the HKRFU are offering has been a great success. And the over 14,000 people enjoying themselves this evening confirms the continued attraction of the Hong Kong Sevens."

England began their defence of the Credit Suisse First Boston Hong Kong Sevens today with a comfortable 52-0 win over Singapore as Joe Lydon's team worked hard to build a high total.

With the seeding for the quarter-finals dependent upon the rankings in pool play, England wasted little time and let each runaway try scorer take his own conversion.

Scotland opened their account with a hard-fought 28-12 victory over South Korea in Pool E, while last year's semi-finalists Wales had to settle for a 10-10 draw with the Cook Islands.

England were certainly fired up, playing in the memory of Nick Duncombe, the squad member who died tragically last month of meningitis at the age of 21.

The players wore black armbands and had his name embroidered on their jerseys.

Duncombe played at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester last August and, according to Lydon, would have had a good chance of being chosen for this tournament.

Newcastle's Jamie Noon opened the scoring in the first minute against Singapore after some early pressure and quick hands. Henry Paul converted and England were off.

Rotherham speedster Rob Thirlby inspired the second try with a well-judged kick-and-chase before Geoff Appleford of London Irish added a third.

Thirlby and Noon both scored second tries before the break and converted them themselves as England enjoyed a 33-0 lead.

The defending champions' scoring rate was reduced slightly in the second half when Appleford received a yellow card for a late tackle.

And before he could complete his two minutes in the sin bin, Northampton's John Howard followed him for being over-aggressive in the ruck.

In the second half, Appleford, Richard Haughton and Matt Cannon added further scores to complete the scoring.

Lydon said afterwards: ``The best part of our game was how we played when we were down to five men - we still stopped Singapore from scoring.''

Against South Korea, Mark Lee and Malcolm Clapperton got Scotland into the game after an early try from Park Chang-Min. Sean Lamont then grabbed a brace of tries, both from Korean mistakes, to keep the Scots safely in front.

Scotland manager Roy Laidlaw admitted that his team were a little rusty as he said: ``This is our first outing of the year, so we have to be happy with the result.

``Korea got that early try which put some pressure on us - but we regrouped well.

``The Koreans were very quick and played with a lot of intensity. I think maybe we played with too much contact and should have moved the ball more quickly.''

A try after the buzzer to stalwart Lance Fitzpatrick earned the Cook Islands a 10-10 draw with Wales.

Terry Piri had the chance to give the Cooks a little bit of an upset but his conversion attempt sailed just left of the posts.

At the start of the match, Taliesin Selley put in a terrific sprint from his own 22 to open the scoring.

Disaster struck a few minutes later as two Welshmen were sent to the sin bin - Paul Jones was first to go, followed not long after by Gareth Gravell, reducing Wales briefly to five men.

The Cooks, however, failed to take full advantage and had only a try to Chris Mokoroa to show for the two-man advantage.

Andy Williams put Wales 10-5 ahead after the breather, but Fitzpatrick's late strike ensured that honours were shared.

Wales coach Sean Holley lamented the mistakes that led to the sin binnings, adding: ``It was ill-discipline on our part, and it's left us a mountain to climb tomorrow. But it's in our hands.

``We'll look to address the areas where we broke down play and try to avoid so much physical contact (against Samoa).''

England will face Tonga and Taiwan in further Pool B matches tomorrow, while Scotland take on Sri Lanka and South Africa, and Wales play Samoa and Holland.

Elsewhere, tournament favourites and IRB Sevens Series leaders New Zealand were not at their best, with a hat-trick of tries from Charles Baxter providing one of the few bright points in a 38-3 win over Malaysia.

Last year's runners-up Fiji, who have reached the final here for the last eight years in a row, took a while to settle against a physical Russian unit, but came through unscathed 33-5.

Fiji have split their Sevens team from the 15-man squad as they prepare for the World Cup in October. Only three of their 12-man squad have played here before, and many have yet to play provincial rugby back home.

South Africa produced the top score of the day with a 54-0 rout of Sri Lanka as Marius Schoeman looked especially dangerous in the eight-tries-to-nil whitewash.

The day's minor shock came from Namibia, who trounced the United States 35-10. Namibia's only other appearance here was at the 1997 Rugby World Cup Sevens.

Tonga came back from a 17-0 deficit to defeat Taiwan 26-17, while Kenya battled well to defeat hosts Hong Kong 15-10.

Scotland opened their account at with a hard-fought 28-12 victory of South Korea in Pool E.

Mark Lee and Malcolm Clapperton got Scotland back into the game after an early try from Korea's Park Chang-Min. Sean Lamont then grabbed a brace of tries, both from Korean mistakes, to keep the Scots safely in front.

Scotland manager Roy Laidlaw admitted that his team were a little rusty and said: ``This is our first outing of the year, so we have to be happy with the result.

``Korea got that early try which put some pressure on us. But we regrouped well.''

``The Koreans were very quick and played with a lit of intensity. I think maybe we played with too much contact and should have moved the ball more quickly.''

Scotland will play Sri Lanka and South Africa on Saturday.

Day One Results:

Time Group Team  Score Team Score
1700 A New Zealand 38 v Malaysia 3
1722 B England 52 v Singapore 0
1744 C Fiji 33 v Russia 5
1806 D Australia 40 v China 7
1828 E South Africa 54 v Sri Lanka 0
1850 F Samoa 41 v Netherlands 7

1912 A Namibia 35 v USA 10
1934 B Tonga 26 v Chinese Taipei 17
1956 C Canada 24 v Japan 12
2018 D Kenya 15 v Hong Kong 10
2040 E Scotland 28 v Korea 12
2102 F Wales 10 v Cook Islands 10

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