Pannell powers Hong Kong
Local rugby union squad played their first match against Tunisia in difficult conditions and came away with a hard-fought victory
The Hong Kong 15s rugby union team defeated Tunisia 25-12 in the first of a two-match series played at the Hong Kong Football Club last Saturday.
The series is part of the squad's preparation for the Asian Five Nations starting later this month. Hong Kong will play their opening game against the Arabian Gulf in Dubai on April 25.
'This is a pre-season game. We're gearing up for the Asian Five Nations. All pre-season games are important for our preparations,' said Hong Kong coach John Walters.
It was the local team's first rugby test against Tunisia and the hot, humid conditions made it tough for the players. The Tunisians fielded a physical team that prevented Hong Kong from implementing their game plan.
After17 minutes of play, Hong Kong's Kenzo Pannell converted a penalty. Sabeur Ben Charrada followed up with Tunisia's first try, helping his side take a 5-3 lead.
But just before half-time, Pannell scored with two more penalty kicks, putting Hong Kong 9-5 ahead at the break.
The pace picked up in the second half. Pannell kicked two further penalties and Tunisia's Abbes Khrfani scored a try, along with a conversion by Aymen Gloulou. There was little to choose between the teams with the score at 15-12 in Hong Kong's favour, until Pannell converted another penalty.
Then both teams defended solidly in a tension-packed end to the match. Pannell managed to put over a conversion in the final minutes following a penalty-try, taking the score to 25-12.
Walters said it wasn't easy for Hong Kong because Tunisia successfully interrupted their play.
'They didn't allow us to use our pattern. Right from the start, our pattern went out the window. We had to scramble a bit,' he said. 'Overall, it was just what we wanted. It was a tough game and the guys stepped up. It was a very good win. The Tunisia team is very physical and very professional.' Hong Kong captain Semi Iafeta agreed.
'We didn't have time to get into our stride. It was a hard match,' he said. 'They gave us a really good game. We're looking forward to next week's contest. Hopefully, we can produce the same result.'
The second test between Hong Kong and Tunisia will be held on Saturday in Tunisia's capital, Tunis.