Anyone who was in attendance at the Race Course International Rugby Stadium for the final round of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series witnessed a two day spectacle that was filled with non-stop excitement and thrilling end to end drama that had me on the edge of my seat until the very last play.
The real benefit of watching these supreme athletes thrash themselves into a froth was the intensity at which they played, the ferocity of the contact and the accuracy of their skills.
It’s great for rugby fans to get off their couch and see the action up close and live. Not only do you get to see just how big two metre tall Bing Gao, of the China Men’s team, is or how elusive our Sri Lankan try machine Richard Dharmapala is, you will also see just how physically fit these men and women are. The dedication to their profession must be lauded as the physical and mental application needed to continue to run, pass and tackle in the 30C heat is astounding.
All of the teams in the main draw started with a clean slate but it was clear to see that Hong Kong, South Korea, China, Sri Lanka and Malaysia were a step ahead of the others with Hong Kong being the team to beat. Malaysia managed to do just that on the opening day, ambushing Hong Kong before their composure was regained and they won their group with a win against South Korea in their final match.
The most revealing fact that set Hong Kong apart from the chasing pack was the power with which they hit the collisions. Solid contact at tackle time was made by all players in the top teams but it was the leg drive after contact, and the tight arm lock around the legs of the ball carrier that ensured the Hong Kong team won each tackle contest they entered. It was the same when they carried the ball into contact. Their leg drive was text book, as was their fight to stay on their feet, and the way they kept the ball in two hands looking to offload to a supporting player. These are lessons that all rugby players need to learn and a good way to experience this is to see it first-hand.
Watching International Rugby on television is always a treat but it’s difficult to judge the speed of the game and the size of the athletes that fly into the fray when there is no reference point for comparison. A two metre tall and 100kgs behemoth looks normal, when standing next to another who is the same size, and the speed and accuracy of the skills on show in International matches also look normal. In fact it’s often only when a player makes a mistake that we look closer at the skills on display.
So to see players running around before our very eyes was a treat that should be acknowledged. Sure we get to see our local stars playing in the local club competition week after week during the season and we have even watched the Sri Lankan Super Sevens this year but the rugby played in the Asia Rugby Sevens this weekend was at another level. It was plain for everyone to see that the Sri Lankan Men’s Rugby Sevens team were at ease with this level of rugby. The team and all of those involved with this Sri Lankan team need to be congratulated as the hard work done on the training pitch was now paying dividends on the field. The scoreboard may not have looked like success for our team but our on-field endeavours screamed of success to this scribe. It is only a matter of time, and a large dose of hard work from our team, before we see the Tuskers topple their perennial nemesis, Hong Kong, and win our first ever Asia Rugby Sevens title. The only question that needs to be raised now is when do we get to see the National Rugby Sevens team play next?