England retain Hong Kong crown
March 30, 2003

England retained their Hong Kong Sevens crown with a pulsating 22-17 victory over IRB series leaders New Zealand in a stirring final worthy of this great tournament.

Coach Joe Lydon, who gave the northern hemisphere its first win here last year in more than two decades, said this weekend's triumph was even harder.

"To come here and defend the title with all the pressure and expectations on us was much more difficult," Lydon said.

"Last year, we had an easy route to the final. This year, it couldn't have been tougher - Australia, Fiji then New Zealand."

England's speedsters proved the difference between the two teams, as Ugo Monye scored an important try in the first half and Richard Haughton managed a double in the second.

Henry Paul, the burly figure in the middle of it all, scored one try himself, and again proved the master manipulator of space.

New Zealand battled well with tries from Tafai Ioasa, Karl Tenana and Roy Kinikinilau, but coach Gordon Tietjens admitted that they "lost to a better side".

"I thought we contained Henry Paul very well, but we let their quick men get outside of us," Tietjens added.

"England have lots and lots of pace, and they also have players with big-match experience in both sevens and 15s. To win this tournament, you've got to be able to play as a team. I thought we did that, but England were still better."

Lydon not only paid tribute to his team but to the tournament as a whole and all those competing, saying any one of eight teams could have won.

He also spoke of absent friends, in particular former team member Nick Duncombe, who died of meningitis last month at age 21.

"We talked about Nick Duncombe before the game, and we talked about those rugby men who lost their lives in the Bali bombing, including some Hong Kong officials.

"We talked of how these people had given so much to rugby in their lives. It provided us with some inspiration."

Hero Haughton said New Zealand had played "an awesome game", but England simply made the most of their opportunities.

The victory made up for his absence from the final last year when England had downed Fiji. The Saracens man was in the 2002 team but missed out on selection for the final as James Simpson-Daniel took centre stage.

In Sunday's semi-finals, a superlative performance again from former rugby league star Paul guided England to a 24-19 victory over Fiji.

In the Plate final, Canada defeated Scotland 19-14 after leading 19-0 at one stage.

Scotland coach Rob Moffat lamented his side's inability to turn possession into points.

"We had lots of play in the first five minutes," Moffat said.

"We were right on their line with a couple of penalties, but we didn't score.

"It was the same yesterday against South Africa. We did really well in the early stages but failed to get any points.

"We should have one better on the first two days. In the end, we missed the Cup quarters."

The United States won the Bowl, beating Japan 24-19 in another close final.

Best & Fairest Player
The Leslie Williams Award winner for the 2003 Credit Suisse First Boston Hong Kong Sevens is England's Henry Paul. The Leslie Williams panel consists of New Zealand rugby journalist and television commentator Keith Quinn, former Wallaby Paul Gibbs and Bob Lloyd captain of the first ever Hong Kong Sevens team.

Atypical Pneumonia Update
The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union has continued its policy of ongoing dialogue with the Hong Kong Government health authorities regarding the Atypical Pneumonia virus throughout the weekend.

All parties were kept informed of any developments throughout the weekend and the HKRFU will continue to update the teams on their departure from Hong Kong.

Attendance in 2003
Friday March 28, 2003 15,069
Saturday March, 29, 2003 25, 060
Sunday 30 March, 2003 30,084

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