Hong Kong beat Korea 30-21 in an enthralling encounter in Incheon on Saturday to put themselves in the driving seat to win this year’s Asia Rugby Championship.
The win, their second in as many weeks, sees them go four points clear at the top of the standings and puts them favourites to progress to the next stage of Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification – a home and away play-off against the Cook Islands.
On a wet and windy day in Incheon, it was the visitors who took a commanding 21-7 lead into half-time but had to hold on for their win after an impressive second half from Korea.
Hong Kong took the lead with a Matthew Rosslee penalty, but the hosts scored the first try of the match through wing Jeong Min Jang – his third of the tournament.
The visitors restored their lead through tries from Tyler Spitz and Liam Slatem, and two further Rosslee penalties, to lead 21-7 at the break.
But, despite Rosslee adding his fourth penalty early in the second half to take the game further away from Korea, captain Yong Seung Lee scored the hosts' second try and Youn Hyung Oh added the extras to bring Korea to within two scores.
Jae Bok Lee then powered his way over the line for Korea's third try, having knocked the ball on in the previous move. His try came either side of Rosslee’s fifth and sixth penalties, taking the Hong Kong fly-half’s tally to 20 points for the match.
Despite dominating the remaining possession and territory and being in the ascendency upfront, the hosts were unable to get any closer to Hong Kong.
“I am really happy. We got the win which is what we came here for," said Hong Kong captain James Cunningham.
“We played some good footy but we did let the Koreans back in. We need to get rid of those errors though and we will then be a much better team if we can do that.
“Defensively there was some good shots, good composure and good line speed. We need to complete our tackles, but I am generally happy with how it went.”
Hong Kong have a bye next weekend while Korea play host to Malaysia knowing a win will keep them in contention for the title.