Hong Kong pay the price to finish empty handed at Rugby World Cup
Jones and Hewson's yellow cards in World Cup Bowl quarter-final against Georgia decisive
Georgia will be on Hong Kong's mind for some time, especially for Lee Jones and Nick Hewson, who were both yellow-carded in the World Cup Sevens Bowl quarter-final, their absence effectively ending the side's silverware hopes as the Europeans ran out 31-10 winners.
The loss of the two influential forwards made a tough task all but impossible. Georgia were one of the more imposing teams at this 24-team tournament and Hong Kong knew well beforehand that it would be a battle in the trenches, upfront and at the breakdown.
Losing a player to a yellow card is bad enough, but being without a key forward for two minutes in each half was like trying to break into the Kremlin blindfolded.
"It is hard to play with six men, and not just for two minutes, but for four minutes in the match. And on both occasions it was clearly our fault. What more can you say. If you play with less men, you are likely to lose," said captain Rowan Varty.
This was Varty's third, and probably last, appearance at a World Cup. As in previous attempts, Hong Kong will once again return home empty-handed and with just one win - over Portugal, a core team on the World Series - in the preliminary round.
Jones turned from hero to villain in seconds. He had just scored a try created by Varty, who sucked in the defence before the ball was swung out wide to the left flank, to give Hong Kong heart and reduce the deficit to 7-5. But seconds later Jones was spotted tugging at a shirt of a Georgian player without the ball in hand by Scottish referee Kevin White and he brought out the yellow card.
Down to six men for the last two minutes of the first half, Hong Kong were on the back foot and Georgia made it count, scoring their second try to take a 14-5 lead at the break.
An early score would have put Hong Kong right back in the frame but once again the self-destruct button was pressed, this time by Hewson for a spear tackle.
Georgia once again made Hong Kong pay for the foul, taking full advantage of the extra man superiority to carve the way for a third try to stretch the lead to 21-5. Salom Yiu Kam-shing came on in the second half and scored a consolation try, his third on his debut World Cup, but Georgia added two more tries to wrap up the game comfortably.
"We made too many mistakes and being down to six men is tough. But it has been a long season and the guys have done us proud," said Hong Kong head coach Dai Rees.
"We just got it wrong. We gave the ball up to easy and poor execution which I would say is down to fatigue," Rees said. "It has been tough trying to peak for this. There have been so many things to peak for this season, the Asian championship, Hong Kong, London.
"But having said that we beat Portugal, another core team on the World Series, and we can also take encouragement from two good first-half performances against Argentina and England," Rees added.
Hong Kong's next international assignment will be the World Games in Cali, Colombia in August. But Rees said he had no plans to train before it, preferring the players to have a good break.
"We will just meet up on the flight to South America and take it from there. These guys deserve a good holiday, short as it is," Rees added.