Sat, Mar 23, 2002 - Page 16 News List

Taiwan loses game but makes a point

SEVENS SURPRISE The nation's rugby players managed to put two tries past second-favorites South Africa before succumbing 44-12 at the Hong Kong Sevens

By Jeffrey Wilson  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER , WITH AFP IN HONG KONG

South Africa's Paul Treu, top right, and Taiwan's Wang Kuo-feng, top left, reach for the ball during their match at the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens tournament yesterday. South Africa won 44-12.

PHOTO: AP

As expected, Taiwan fell to powerful South Africa last night in their opening match of the Hong Kong Sevens. But the final score of 44-12 showed that the Taiwanese are not going to be pushovers in the weekend tournament.

Taiwan scored two second-half tries against the Springboks in a big morale booster for the squad.

"We achieved our goals for the match," head coach Wu Mao-sheng said. "In the past, whenever we played the best teams in the world we usually couldn't get a try. To get two tonight is very satisfying."

Things didn't look so good early on, as South Africa scored only 26 seconds into the match. But a tenacious Taiwan team gradually gained a feel for their game in the second half.

"We were patient with our attack and finally broke through," said Wu. "I thought that if we stuck to our game we would have opportunities to score."

The first opportunity came at the four-minute mark in the second half. Taking advantage of a defensive lapse by the Springboks, Taiwan crossed midfield with a 3-on-2 advantage. Wang Kuo-feng flipped the ball to Chen Wen-yen who raced down the left side for the try from 18m out. A huge roar went up from the fans at Hong Kong Stadium when the heavy underdogs broke through with the score.

After the match, Chen said he relished his try against the Springboks.

"I'm really happy because I was able to score against such a strong team," said Chen, a student at National Taiwan College of Physical Education in Taichung.

Pan Chih-ming added the conversion before Chang Ching-fong scored Taiwan's second try just before time expired.

Wu said the performance gave his team a big boost going into today's matches against Canada and Papua New Guinea. Last night, Canada thoroughly outclassed PNG 34-0.

Scotland trounced

In Group A, meanwhile, woeful Scotland got their campaign off to the worst possible start when they were played off the pitch by a rampant Portugal.

The Scots were outpaced and outplayed by a classy Portuguese outfit who ran in four tries, three converted, for a convincing 26-14 win.

"We prepared well for that game [but] we didn't take the preparation into the match," Scotland captain Mark Lee said.

"We're pretty disappointed. We have won twice against Portugal and lost twice. We targeted that game for a good performance but we had a couple of new lads on the pitch and I think it showed the level of competition is a lot higher than what we used to play."

The Scottish tragedy was nearly eclipsed by the hapless French in Group D, who needed a conversion to escape a humbling loss to South Korea after Laurent Diaz went over for a last-gasp try.

The rest of the day's play went by the form book.

New Zealand looked in ominous form, warming up for the defense of their Hong Kong crown with a 51-0 demolition of Sri Lanka.

Veteran Hong Kong champions Fiji, with 10 wins at the Hong Kong stadium, made their intentions clear with a 55-0 drubbing of Singapore. Australia, Argentina and Samoa encountered few difficulties and Wales notched the highest total of the day with a 56-0 win over China.

England made short work of Japan with a 47-0 win.

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