Humbled Hong Kong juniors enter seventh place play-off following crushing defeat by Namibia
Hong Kong’s juniors will on Sunday face hosts Zimbabwe in the 7th/8th play-off game at the World Rugby U20 Trophy following a crushing 70-8 pool loss to Namibia in mid-week.
Namibia showed a lethal combination of power and pace that proved too much for Hong Kong, who played Wednesday’s match with a side largely unchanged from their 32-12 loss to the USA – John Markley started at hooker, while flanker Jonathan Healy moved to number eight making room for Ben Tang Cheuk-hang.
By leveraging their significant physical advantage in the forwards Namibia created numerous attacking opportunities as they exploded for nine tries, five of them coming in a blistering first half.
Fly-half Cliven Loubser accounted for 22 points with a try – worth six points under the scoring trial in place for the tournament – and eight of nine conversions.
The African team were 38-0 up at the break, but despite the lopsided score line it was an open contest for much of the match with end-to-end action seeing Hong Kong perched on the Namibian try-line on occasion.
Hong Kong’s forays into opposition territory were stymied not only by a staunch defensive effort but by numerous infringements, with the referee warning Namibia four times on their own try-line in the first half alone.
Two opening period tries for Hong Kong were disallowed by the assistant referee – winger Austin Robertshaw was judged to have put a foot into touch while a Hugo Stiles try was called back for foul play up-pitch.
Hong Kong heads dropped in the second half with some players falling off tackles as play fragmented, though centre Liam Owens showed extraordinary commitment in the tackle right through to the final whistle.
The referee finally responded to the continuing Namibian infringements with a yellow card eight minutes from time as Hong Kong trailed 62-0.
The resulting penalty led to a quick tap-and-run try beneath the posts for prop Callum Smith.The heavy defeat was a disappointing finish to the pool stages for the Hong Kong juniors, but on Sunday they will have one last opportunity to notch an historic first win in the World Rugby U20 Trophy when they take on hosts Zimbabwe in the seventh-place play-off game.
Zimbabwe qualified for the tournament by virtue of hosting just as Hong Kong did on their debut appearance in 2014.
“We were disappointed with our performance today. We made too many handling errors and gave away six turnovers while defensively we were a bit slow to react at times. The Namibians did well to capitalise on their opportunities,” said coach Peter Drewett.
“We now have three days to prepare to play Zimbabwe and will work hard to put in a performance that the players can be proud of,” concluded Drewett.
Hong Kong line-up against Namibia
1. Ken Encarnacion, 2. John Markley, 3. Callum Smith, 4. Oisin Harbitz, 5. Alessandro Nardoni, 6. Ben Tang Cheuk-hang, 7. Pierce Mackinlay-West (c), 8. Jonathon Healy, 9. Mark Coebergh, 10. Hugo Stiles, 11. Austin Robertshaw, 12. Liam Owens, 13. Matt Worley, 14. Ron Siew, 15. James Christie, 16. Lachlan Oliver-Kerby, 17. Michael Earley, 18. Cheung Ho-yin, 19. Wesley Yip, 20. James Karton, 21. Paul Altier, 22. Jack Combes
Final pool standings
1st. Samoa 15pts; 2nd. Fiji 10pts; 3rd. Uruguay 7pts; 4th. Zimbabwe 0pts
1st. Spain 14pts; 2nd. Namibia 10pts; 3rd. USA 8pts; 4th. Hong Kong 0pts