Hong Kong fall to South Korea
Hong Kong's attempt to grab the psychological advantage before next year's Asian qualifiers for the 2015 World Cup was foiled by South Korea yesterday as the home team raced to a 43-22 victory in Ansan.
If this had been World Cup qualifying - next year's tournament will double up as the Asian qualifiers to decide one direct entry and one repechage spot - it would have meant disaster.
South Korea were reduced to 13 men at one stage, but still finished the stronger, running in seven tries.
"We talked about how important it was to stay in touch and about not giving them any easy scores, but they are a good side and you cannot give them a cushion to play with, something they had by scoring two tries early in each half," said Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones.
Jones refused to be totally downhearted and said the picture might be different in 12 months, with the return of the sevens squad into the fold. Their absence was sorely felt as Hong Kong's backline failed to make good use of the abundant possession won by the hardworking forwards. Pale Tauti, Charles French, Alex Baddeley, Matt Lamming and Ian Ridgway all had strong games.
Unfortunately all their effort was squandered by an error-ridden performance from the Hong Kong backs, with perhaps only Sebastien Alfonsi keeping his reputation intact.
"The effort from the forwards wasn't complemented behind the scrum, and hopefully we will be able to pick from those [sevens squad] players who were unavailable this year when we look at winning that repechage spot next season," Jones said.
Already finishing as No 2 in Asia is the Holy Grail for the rest of the region simply because Japan are too strong, as they proved once again in winning the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five competition for the sixth consecutive year.
So the real prize is who could finish second and for the second year running, it was Korea who claimed that position. Jones might hope differently, but a year down the road, things might not be too different with Hong Kong still looking to become a core team on the IRB Sevens World Series.
Will such a repeat scenario result in different teams for the two codes again? Jones is optimistic that will not be the case.
"Hopefully the timing will be different and there will not be a clash like there was this year. And maybe the priority will also change, especially with a repechage berth for the World Cup qualifiers in question," Jones said.