Hong Kong made to pay for string of mistakes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 March, 1998, 12:00am

THE dream of playing in the Cup competition for the first time since 1989 ended for Hong Kong yesterday.

A bruising and physical encounter against Australia in their final pool game finished fairly predictably in the end with David Campese's side winning 28-0 and knocking Hong Kong out of Cup contention.

Missed tackles and dropped passes ended Hong Kong's grandiose ambitions. Coach Jim Rowark is now left with the task of raising his side's spirits for today's tilt at Plate glory.

The home team perhaps paid the price for going into the competition with only one specialist forward in Paul Dingley. He can do only so much. And Hong Kong paid the price against the bigger Australians who dominated possession for long periods of the game.

To make matters worse, Hong Kong were dealt a crushing blow right from the outset. Australia kicking off, won the ball and then Dingley missed a crucial tackle on Bruce Rauqe, one of the finds of this tournament. It was then catch-up rugby.

Built like a runaway bus, and with the speed to match, Rauqe is one of the cornerstones of the Australian side who were determined not to be overshadowed by a side which Campese had labelled a foreign legion.

'I don't know why they call themselves Hong Kong,' Campese told Sports Post earlier in the week.

It seemed that losing to such a team would have been the final ignominy for the Australians who were clearly not in the mood to allow that to happen.

But Hong Kong had their chances. Trailing 7-0, a golden opportunity went begging when Luke Nabaro dropped a pass from Chris Gordon with the goal line in sight.

That could have been a turning point. Instead of drawing level Hong Kong went further behind when, off a subsequent move, flyer Rick Nalutu scored the first of his two tries. Campese added the finishing touches as Australia eased into the Cup competition.

'We are slowly coming together. But we have a long way to go to catch the likes of Fiji or New Zealand,' said coach Mark Ella.

A disappointed Rowark admitted that a lack of possession put paid to Hong Kong's chances.

'We did not have enough ball and you can't win games without possession. It is also unfortunate that a lot of the referee's decisions did not go our way. I believe that some of the minor referees are intimidated by the more well-known sides,' said Rowark.

'We now have to pick ourselves up for tomorrow,' added Rowark.

Plate glory beckons now for the SAR.