Campbell's Hong Kong coaching reign begins on high note
A new chapter in Hong Kong rugby opened most promisingly yesterday.
A Hong Kong Select XV defeated tourists Western Australia 20-0 at the Mongkok Stadium, ushering in new coach Phil Campbell's reign on a highly satisfactory note.
Tries in the last five minutes from Steve Pengelly and Jon Dingley - the latter a peach with the No 8 peeling from a scrum at the halfway mark and going for it after spotting a gap - resulted in a flattering scoreline.
The victory was somewhat dampened by the news that captain for the past two seasons Roger Patterson will be stepping down.
'This is my last game as captain. It is only fair that I step down as I will not be available for the last two away games in the Pacific Rim Championships,' said Patterson afterwards.
Thankfully, Patterson will still make himself available for the first few Pac Rim games and, most importantly, also be around for October's Asian tournament - the region's qualifier for the 1999 World Cup.
Everything is aimed at winning that tournament. Even yesterday's game is part of the bigger picture, even though the majority of the side will not be eligible to play in Singapore, come October.
It does not matter, as coach Campbell's aim currently is to strike the right game plan.
'Winning is a good start. But more than the win, what we are trying to do is to get a game plan going,' said Campbell.
This game plan centres on an aggressive defence - trying to attack without the ball and hustling the opposition into mistakes. Hong Kong did this adequately against a team which was probably trying to come to terms with the hot and humid conditions.
Hong Kong were also boosted by the fact that the Western Australian lineout was a shambles, especially in the first half. And in the second half, the SAR's scrum gradually got the edge. With the set pieces under control, the SAR had the luxury of plenty of possession.
However, it was not always put to good use, with at least four tries going begging.
Hong Kong led 3-0 at half-time from a penalty by fly-half Chris Yates. The only excitement in this half was provided by the superb tackling of winger Matt Reede.
Yates left the field just before the break with an injury. His replacement Carl Murray was soon orchestrating the moves as Hong Kong began to grow in confidence.
A Murray penalty took the score to 6-0. Although not out of the danger zone, skipper Patterson opted for a lineout when awarded a kickable penalty five minutes from the end. From the ensuing driving maul, Pengelly went over. That was followed by Dingley's peach.
'That was the longest I have ever run for a try. I just wanted to get through the game when I spotted the gap,' said Dingley.