Hong Kong and Korea make flying starts
Hong Kong and Korea got their bid to qualify for a first Rugby World Cup off to flying starts with emphatic wins over the Philippines and Sri Lanka respectively on the opening weekend of the Asian 5 Nations 2014.
Japan are favourites to claim the Asia 1 berth at RWC 2015 by winning a seventh successive title, but the battle for the runner-up spot and a place in the Repechage later in the year is expected to be fiercely contested by Hong Kong and Korea.
Hong Kong ran out 108-0 winners over the Philippines at the Hong Kong Football Club a few hours after Korea had opened the competition with a 59-3 win over Sri Lanka, who are back in the Top 5 after winning Division I last year, at Munhak Stadium in Incheon.
Hong Kong produced a commanding display and scored 16 tries against the Volcanoes. Flanker Matt Lamming led the charge to the try-line with a hat-trick, while second row Bill Brant and replacement centre Tom McColl each got a brace.
Fly-half Chris McAdam kicked 28 points from 11 conversions and two penalties, while the other nine tries were scored by Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Jake Phelps, Kenneth Hsieh, Lloyd Jones, Rowan Varty, Alex McQueen, Peter McKee, Nick Wheatley and Alex Baddeley.
“We were quite professional and very clinical,” said Hong Kong head coach Leigh Jones. “It is easy in games like this to drop off at half-time but this was an 80-minute performance.”
Room for improvement
The writing was on the wall for the Philippines as early as the first minute when Hong Kong stole the ball from their lineout. It set the tone for the match with the Hong Kong pack, led superbly by number 8 Pale Tauti, dominating the set pieces.
The first try came in the third minute when Brant was at the sharp end of a rolling maul which drove their opponents back 20 metres. Wing Yiu followed soon after as he out-paced the defence to cover 50 metres and score under the posts.
It opened the floodgates as tries then came at regular intervals. Hong Kong led 51-0 at the break and kept the pressure on, running in nine more tries in the second half.
“We had a simple game plan and we can draw confidence from this performance. It is always important to start these competitions well,” Jones added.
“Our backs didn’t quite complement the forwards and some of the options they took were found wanting. Against better sides we would have been punished. We need to improve.”
Things will not get any easier for the Philippines as they host Japan next weekend with Hong Kong travelling to Colombo to face a Sri Lankan side who found Korea too hot to handle in Incheon.
Korea make advantage count
Flanker Kim Jeong Min accounted for two of Korea’s five first half tries, after scrum half Yang Jung Pil, who plays professionally in Japan for NEC, scored the game’s first try in the opening minutes.
Kim’s first try came shortly thereafter, with fly half Lee Eu Dum scoring the third try, before Kim completed his brace to give Korea an early bonus point. Prop Park Jng Yeul crossed over the fifth try of the first half for the home side.
Wing Kim Yon Wong added a penalty either side of half-time to add to his four conversions in the match. Sri Lanka’s only reply came in the first half through full back Riza Mubarak, bringing the half-time score to 30-3 in favour of the hosts.
The second half was much the same as the Koreans ran rampant on an emotional day marked by a minute’s silence pre-game for the victims of the tragic Sewol Ferry disaster 10 days ago.
Korea ran in four more tries after the break through number 8 Lee Kwang Moon, replacement front rows Son Young Gi, Kim Hyoun Soo and Song Byeong Ho as the home side made the most of their size and weight advantage in the forwards.