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Hong Kong’s historic victory

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Hong Kong recorded a famous victory when they defeated Korea 27-20 in a pulsating match at King’s Park, Hong Kong, on Sunday, a result which saw Hong Kong claim second place in the year’s Asian Nations Series.

The win was Hong Kong’s first over Korea since 1986, and represented a major step forward in Hong Kong’s ambition to be the second-best team in Asia, behind Japan.

“We have a long way to go, but this is a start,” said Hong Kong’s new coach, John Walters, who was in charge of the team for the first time.

The victory ushered in a new order for Hong Kong. Kenzo Pannell and Mark Wright combined well in the halves and young locks Nick Hurrell and Ryan McBride showed they can form the nucleus of future packs, while the centre pairing of Anthony Haynes and Tsang Hing Hung gave nothing away as they shored up the midfield. The match also signalled the end of Tom Cameron, with the Hong Kong captain announcing his retirement.

“It is a good way to end my rugby for Hong Kong. It is a great highlight of my career,” said hooker Cameron after leading his forwards in a gutsy performance. It culminated in a superb defensive display in the final 20 minutes, which denied the Koreans any chance of victory.

“We tackled everything that moved,” said Cameron. “We showed a lot of urgency in defence. They came back at us but the boys stuck at it.”

While Pannell, with a personal tally of 17 points, and the other youngsters stood out, veteran loose forwards Nigel Clarke and Semi Iafeta both had strong games both in defence and attack, making life very difficult for the Korean forwards and inside backs. However it was a team performance in the truest sense, with the entire squad making a contribution.

Korea started the match strongly, and led 10-3 after 25 minutes. Hong Kong struck back immediately from the restart. After a sustained attack Hong Kong were awarded a penalty close the Korean line. Haynes took a quick tap and Pannell slipped over for the first of Hong Kong’s three tries.

Pannell converted and then added a penalty shortly after, as Hong Kong took the lead for the first time 13-10. Flank Justin Gregory was on hand to complete a flowing movement as Hong Kong broke from their own half, and score Hong Kong’s second try the take a 20-10 lead into the break.

Korea reduced the deficit with a penalty soon after the break, but Hong Kong responded, with fullback Colin Bisley weaving his way through the Korean defence to score the third and decisive try which extended the lead to 27-13.

Korean scrumhalf Yang Young-hun, who scored his side’s first try, scored a second as he pounce on a loose ball from a Hong Kong scrum to score. The conversion was duly added, reducing the gap to just seven points with 20 minutes remaining. Korea continued to mount attacks as they pushed to level the scores, but Hong Kong’s defence stayed firm.

The conditions, including heavy surface flooding, made handling difficult, and it was Hong Kong who adapted better.

“We had to adapt to the conditions as well. Our ball handling was fantastic, and we forced some errors. We held onto our own ball and had the intensity in defence.”

It was that intensity that earned Hong Kong a deserving win, which sees them claim second place in the Asian Nations Series.

 

365 Digital

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