Hero Robertson left kicking himself despite Hong Kong's epic victory
Man-of-the-match Keith Robertson was still trying to figure out what went wrong with his goal kicking the day after Hong Kong secured a perfect start to the third HSBC Asian Five Nations season by beating South Korea.
Flyhalf Robertson had a 50 per cent success rate with the boot - kicking four out of eight attempts - that luckily did not matter as Hong Kong swept to a convincing four-tries-to-one 32-8 victory over the Koreans at the Football Club on Saturday.
'I really don't know what happened with my kicking,' Robertson said yesterday. 'But I'm happy that my kicks didn't count in the end. It would have been terrible if we had lost because I missed my kicks.'
Starting for the first time at flyhalf in an international, Robertson missed two crucial penalties, both within comfortable kicking distance, as Hong Kong took a 10-8 lead into half-time. In the second half he missed a couple more, a penalty in front of the posts and a conversion.
'It was amazing that I was missing considering that, before the game started, I knocked over 20 out of 20 kicks at goal in practice. Perhaps it was due to first-game nerves,' Robertson said.
Robertson has been under the tutelage of former England sevens international Joe Shaw, a player-coach with Kowloon this season, who has been teaching him the finer points of goal kicking. And everything seemed to be on par, until things went wrong horribly in game time.
'Joe [Shaw] has given me a lot of pointers and helped me to try and get more consistency into my kicking game. I have tried new things out, but perhaps I lost concentration,' said the 23-year-old Robertson, who will now place extra emphasis on goal-kicking during training before Hong Kong's next game against the Arabian Gulf on Friday.
The squad will leave for Bahrain on Thursday - because of work commitments most players cannot get time off - and will have very little time to get acclimatised and shake off their jet lag before facing a second crucial game in the space of six days.
'We have got off to a good start, but everybody is cautious and not getting too far ahead of ourselves,' Robertson said. 'While we won well, it will mean nothing if we lose against the Arabian Gulf. It's not going to be easy, especially if you take in all the travel time involved.'
The Arabian Gulf will be smarting from their opening loss, 43-28, to Kazakhstan in Almaty last Saturday. Powerful open-side flanker Anton Rudoy scored a hat-trick of tries for the home team, while fullback Maxim Lifontov collected 23 points from five penalties and four conversions.
The Gulf began strongly and led 13-0 before the home team managed to claw back to a 14-13 lead at half-time. The excitement did not let up in the second half either as the game went down to the wire with both teams trading tries. With 15 minutes remaining, the score was 33-28 in favour of Kazakhstan and both teams were in contention for the bonus point for scoring four tries or more.
Urged on by a raucous home crowd of more than 4,000 spectators, Kazakhstan made home advantage tell, finding their stride in the waning minutes of the game to pull away for good.
Both Hong Kong and Kazakhstan share top spot in the standings with six points each - five for a win and a bonus point for scoring four or more tries. Japan, the defending champions and favourites to clinch Asia's automatic berth for the World Cup, will begin their campaign on Saturday when they travel to Seoul.