HK on high alert after Kazakhs stun S Korea
Hong Kong's bid to finish as the number two team in the HSBC Asian Five Nations became more difficult after Kazakhstan scored a shock 30-27 defeat over South Korea in Almaty.
South Korea, who Hong Kong will meet on Saturday in Seoul, were expected to be the main challengers for second place behind Japan. But the surprise result from Almaty - Kazakhstan fullback Maxim Lifontov knocking over a late penalty to seal his country's first win over South Korea - means Hong Kong will face an extra threat. Last year Hong Kong defeated Kazakhstan 23-17.
But for the moment, all the focus is on South Korea, and Hong Kong realise they have a lot to do after going down 59-6 to Japan.
'It is going to be a huge game. They are a very slick side and it will be harder as they will be at home,' said Hong Kong flanker Nigel Clarke. 'We just got to build from this week. We have set the benchmark of finishing second.'
Clarke, one of four forwards to play the entire 80 minutes against Japan - the others being front-row mainstay Pete Spizziri, young lock Nick Hurrell and openside flanker Kwok Ka-chun - was left a disappointed man after Japan ran in nine tries.
'They are a professional outfit and are faster and fitter, but we honestly thought that it would be a 10 or 15 points game, not 50 points,' Clarke said. 'We kept up with them for about 30 minutes and we should have kept the score to much less than that. But you can't fault the effort from the guys.'
Hong Kong coach Dai Rees will expect the team to raise their performance a couple of notches against South Korea.
'Korea are like Japan. Although they are not a professional team, they have got a lot of army-based guys who train regularly as a group,' Rees said. 'Hopefully we will be in the game for longer periods against Korea. It is a realistic goal of beating them but we always knew it was going to be tough against Japan and Korea.'
Hong Kong will play away to Kazakhstan on May 24. The week before they take on Singapore at home.