HONG KONG CAGE FWD SOUTH CHINA TIGERS IN ASIA RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP WARM-UP
An Hong Kong squad in training for the upcoming Asia Rugby Championship beat an understrength South China Tigers squad 31-17 today at Aberdeen Sports Ground.
The hit-out will have helped sharpen reigning Asian champions Hong Kong for their title defence, which opens in South Korea on 8 June, before a home and away with Malaysia (15 and 22 June respectively), and the finale against Korea at Hong Kong Football Club on 29 June.
“It went about as we expected today,” said coach Andy Hall.
“Whilst it was a South China Tigers side, they had a few guys that hadn’t played for the South China Tigers this season and were under a bit more pressure in their preparations. So we expected that a bit from the game, but it was still quite a useful experience - at the right level and more than enough to test ourselves.
“They tested us in a few areas, which is good, and a handy reminder for us to cover off some things before Korea, so that highlighted some of the priorities for us in the next few weeks. There were no injuries from a full blown hit out and as close to match conditions as we can possibly get, so overall I’m pleased,” Hall added.
Hong Kong led the FWD South China Tigers 24-17 at half time in a game they never trailed, although the match was more evenly contested than the final total suggests.
Fly half Matt Rosslee put Hong Kong on the board with a penalty in the sixth minute to take a 3-0 lead. The early shot at goal was just reward for a strong opening from Hong Kong who were camped in the FWD South China Tigers half for most of the opening ten minutes.
Tigers fly Glyn Hughes half levelled matters on his first chance with a penalty in the 11th minute after Hong Kong were pinged for not rolling away in the tackle following a good line break from the Tigers.
Behind first season standouts like captain Josh Dowsing, No.8 Luke van der Smit, Hughes and Mitch Andrews and Dan Barlow in the front row, the Tigers started to exert greater pressure and sustained some attacks inside Hong Kong’s 22metres as half-time approached.
South China Tigers hooker Alex Post, wearing his Hong Kong colours today, converted a key try to break the impasse, with Rosslee slotting the conversion to push Hong Kong’s lead to 10-3.
Looking to put some distance between them and the Tigers, Hong Kong redoubled its attack and was rewarded with a penalty try after Tigers wing Ma Chong was flagged for an intentional knock-on defending his try-line. The automatic seven-pointer pushed Hong Kong’s lead to 17-3.
The Tigers replied gamely with a quick tap and go try on their next foray into Hong Kong ground to close the gap to 17-10 after the conversion from fullback Robbie Keith.
Lock Craig Lodge returned the momentum to the national team with a try in the 31st minute, when he contorted his body at the edge of a ruck on the Tigers try-line to cross the whitewash and give Hong Kong a 24-10 buffer at the break after another conversion from Rosslee.
The second half was more evenly contested, with Hong Kong striking first with a penalty slotted by Paul Altier to push the score to 27-10 just minutes after the re-start.
The score would remain unchanged for the rest of the quarter before the Tigers broke the impasse with a nice try from centre Tom Hill, who spotted a gap in the Hong Kong defence and exploited it well to set up the attack along the sideline. Hughes’ conversion brought the Tigers to 24-17 as they threatened to inch their way back into contention.
Sevens veteran and fifteens back row forward Kane Boucaut put Hong Kong in the clear with a late try and after the final conversion from Rosslee, Hong Kong emerged as 31-17 winners.
Fly half Matt Rosslee believes that Hong Kong are well prepared for the Asian championship saying, “We were chuffed to win it last year and we want to get back to the performance levels we were at last year. Hopefully, the experience a lot of us have had in Global Rapid Rugby with the South China Tigers will help us raise those levels even higher.
“Global Rapid Rugby was another step up for us and the score line didn’t always flatter us, but I think we cam out with some respect from that. The last four or five seasons we have been head to head with South Korea and hopefully we can now open a bit of daylight between us,” the South African born fly half said after today’s hit-out.