Chris McAdam and Tom McColl impress as Hong Kong begin title defence with win
McAdam and returning McColl impress as champions open defence by beating Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe might have the better rugby pedigree, having featured in two World Cups - 1987 and 1991 - but Hong Kong proved they could match, and better, such an accomplished team as they began their title defence at the Emirates Airline Cup of Nations with a solid 22-7 victory over the champions of Africa.
Led superbly by Tom McColl, returning after a 16-month break during which he earned his pilot wings for a rival airline, a new-look Hong Kong - who have chosen to rest most of their sevens stars - looked more composed than their feisty opponents to secure a comfortable win after trailing 7-6 at the break.
Spurred on by coach Leigh Jones' halftime pep-talk - "you have had your 40 minutes to settle down, now get out and do your job" - Hong Kong stifled Zimbabwe with a superb blanket defence while taking the opportunities which came their way.
Fly-half Chris McAdam, one of several new faces in the backs, proved his bright new boots also had a purpose, as he knocked over five penalties and converted the solitary try by McColl who was on hand to complete a lovely break by winger Salom Yiu Kam-shing midway through the second half.
"The quality of this game was up from last year, and while we made a few mistakes, we also showed a lot of maturity," said manager Dai Rees. "This is just the start we wanted."
Top-ranked Belgium crushed hosts United Arab Emirates 94-3 in the opening game of the tournament to underline the danger they pose to Hong Kong.
It was a well below-par performance from the hosts as Belgium, ranked 23rd in the world, coasted to a comfortable 14-try victory with fullback Alan Williams scoring 44 points including four tries and 12 conversions.