Quake-hit Japan starts 'comeback' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Quake-hit Japan starts 'comeback'

26/03/2011 02:21:38 AM Comments (0)

Japan coach Wataru Murata said Friday his team's participation in the Hong Kong Sevens showed the world the nation was "coming back" after the devastating earthquake of March 11.

Japan lost a pulsating game against the USA, 24-19, and twice came from behind to level in the first half in a display that had the crowd on its feet.

Before the game, Japanese coaching staff raised a national flag displaying the words "Pray for Japan" and the stadium roared on the Japanese players' every touch.

The dual disasters have left around 9,300 dead in Japan and the players in Hong Kong are wearing black armbands throughout the three-day event as a mark of respect to those who lost their lives.

"In Japan we have many problems, with the earthquake and the tsunami," said Murata. "But this is a top tournament and we are sad but we must do our best."

New Zealand also came to Hong Kong saying they were hoping to lift the spirits of their fans back home, after the devastation of the earthquake that struck the city of Christchurch on February 22, claiming an estimated 182 lives. And they performed like a team on a mission.

The New Zealand sevens machine is led by a no-nonsense coach Gordon Tietjens and his charges played out his game plan with a fitting minimum of fuss, downing South Korea 61-0.

"I firmly believe that you set the standard for the tournament by your first game," said Tietjens.

So dominant were the New Zealanders that the Koreans were not allowed to mount a single attack. Leading the charge was powerhouse New Zealander Buxton Popoalii with 26 points from two surging tries and eight conversions.

"We were quite composed and we scored some great tries from turnovers so it was quite pleasing," said Tietjens. "Our defence was really good. Them not crossing our line was pleasing. It was quite slippery at times there but you need points in these games and we got 61.

New Zealand entered the Hong Kong event tied with England in the IRB World Sevens Series, both teams picking up 80 points at the halfway mark of the eight-tournament competition, and the English got their tournament off to a winning start, albeit with one minor hiccup.

A lapse in concentration midway through the first half saw China cross for a try but the English moved up a gear as the game went on to win 59-5.

"It was good to get a good win on a Friday night but it was nothing more than that," said England coach Ben Ryan. "We are back again tomorrow and we have to start playing again."

Reigning Hong Kong champions Samoa meanwhile got their title defence off to the best possible start, blitzing tournament new boys Mexico 64-0.

The Hong Kong Sevens continues until Sunday.

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