New Zealand students hand out lesson to jittery Hong Kong
Hong Kong fielded 30 players - in two halves - against New Zealand Universities last night. But even had they used 100 the outcome would still have been a loss, as they were up against a team full of aspiring All Blacks.
But the 33-0 defeat at King's Park was greeted with a strong measure of equanimity by new head coach Dai Rees as he looks ahead to the start of the HSBC Asian Five Nations campaign next week.
'This is a work in progress. I don't expect to see results overnight,' said Rees. 'We worked hard against a side who was bigger and stronger than us and who play at a different level.'
Rees chose to use his entire squad in the only warm-up game prior to the start of the second A5N season - and even playing half a game yesterday, some looked well off the pace.
New captain Jon Abel put it down to 'first game jitters' and said the team could only learn from the lessons meted out by the Kiwi undergrads.
'The first game jitters are out of the way,' said Abel, 'They gave us a good wake-up call and a hard game which we desperately needed.'
While Japan take on Kazakhstan and South Korea meet Singapore in the opening round of the Top Five today, Hong Kong, who have drawn a bye, will reflect on a patchy performance where they conceded five tries and failed to look threatening for large periods of the game.
The visitors led 28-0 at the break, but then only managed to score one more try in the second half.
The fresher legs of the Hong Kong Select XV, plus the presence of Simon Hempel in midfield, probably played a huge role in limiting the scoreline.
But the failure to show more teeth in attack will be worrying. New Zealand Universities coach Mark Meates put it down to a 'lack of composure with the ball'.
That was hardly the case with the visitors with tries scored by lock Sam Whiteback, flanker Hoani Matenga, outstanding No 8 Kieran Williams, winger Caleb Kahu Pokoro and fullback Casey Stone. Flyhalf Chris Noakes converted four of the tries.
Three of the tries came as a result of turnovers at the breakdown which Rees will hope to address before next Saturday's showdown with defending champions Japan at the Hong Kong Football Club.
'They out-muscled us. They were very powerful and a lot stronger in contact areas than us,' Rees said. 'Our defence was good in terms of organisation, unfortunately they scored three tries from turnover ball. Take those 21 points away and we would have been in the game.'