INCHEON, South Korea (Reuters) – Japan and China won the gold medals in the rugby sevens at the Asian Games on Thursday, affirming their status as the region’s powerhouses in one of Asia’s fastest growing sports.
Japan beat Hong Kong 24-12 in a free-flowing match to win the men’s title for the third time in a row while China held on to beat Japan 14-12 in the women’s decider.
Hong Kong levelled the scores at 12-12 midway through the second half when substitute Yiu Kam Shing scored a try with his first touch of the ball but Japan replied with two late tries to seal the win.
“It was a tough match but our players did really well under pressure,” said Japan coach Tomohiro Segawa.
Japan regained the lead when Hong Kong lost the ball inside their own half and Tongan-born Lomana Lemeki, nicknamed the Terminator, scooped it up and raced away to score under the posts.
Hong Kong coughed up possession again in the final minute and Kazushi Hano finished off a well executed move to give Japan an unassailable 12-point lead.
“We always knew that Japan were going to be strong and it was just a couple of little things that went against us that made the difference,” said Hong Kong’s Welsh coach Gareth Baber.
China won the women’s title for the first time after surviving a late fightback from a smaller but faster Japanese team.
The Chinese led 14-7 at halftime but Japan cut the deficit to two points with a little over two minutes to go when Chiharu Nakamura crashed over in the left corner.
She missed the sideline conversion attempt but Japan began finding holes in the tiring Chinese defence and looked to have stolen the win when they won a scrum against the feed and scored a try after the final siren.
But the try was disallowed by Hong Kong referee Lee Wing Yi who ruled that the final pass went forward, triggering wild celebrations from the Chinese and tears from Japan.