Kiwis top the pile in Origin stakes
By ALVIN SALLAY
IT is official. The New Zealand brand of rugby beats the best the rest of the world can offer - in Hong Kong.
Complete with the Haka and the All Black strip, the territory's expatriate New Zealanders emerged winners of the inaugural Country of Origin Cup tournament at the Aberdeen Stadium yesterday.
The Kiwis defeated England 7-0 in the final, to once again highlight the answer to the often-argued question that rugby from the Southern Hemisphere is better than that from the North.
Until the June 24 World Cup in Johannesburg, Hong Kong's cosmopolitan rugby population will have to settle with the factual outcome of yesterday's tournament - New Zealand are simply the best.
They won their preliminary group with ease defeating Hong Kong 44-0, Wales 26-5 and Scotland 34-0. In the other group, favourites England also came through unscathed defeating Ireland 12-0, Japan 38-0 and Australia 22-0 in the 15-a-side, 20-minute games.
Commentator Gary Cross (who with fellow-commentator Bill 'McLaren' Wadsworth kept the crowd entertained with their witticisms) hit the nail on the head when he pointed the approach the two teams were taking before the Cup final - the Kiwis almost religiously warming up while England ambled on the touchline.
The game hardly reached any heights of excellence. It was left for Mark Solomon to break the deadlock early in the second half when, off broken play, he crashed through the defence from inside his own half and floated a long pass wide to Isi Tu'ivai who scored the match-winning try.
The women's Continental Cup final between Hong Kong and Australasia was a far more exciting affair with the players showing they were much more willing to run the ball than the men.
Tries by Ruth Mitchell and Candy Yiu (the latter a superb solo effort of 70 metres) lifted Hong Kong to a 10-0 victory - which ended in a lap of honour.
Tournament director George Simpkin said afterwards: 'I hope this will be the first of many Country of Origin Cups. It was a huge success.'