Hong Kong power through ‘tipping point’ to land one of the best wins of the Leigh Jones era against South Korea
Victors in box seat for second place in Asia Rugby Championship on the back of a 43-17 romp featuring six tries and some brilliant defence
Leigh Jones sensed Hong Kong were at a “tipping point” during the build-up to their clash with South Korea and how right he was, with his side posting an emphatic 43-17 win away from home.
Jones hailed it as one of the best wins he has been involved in and Hong Kong return home from Yesan in the box seat to secure second spot in the Asia Rugby Championship, behind Japan.
“I had a feeling, I told the guys during the week that we were at a tipping point,” Jones said. “That we were capable of now putting some distance between ourselves and Korea, if we were really on top of everything, and the players responded magnificently to that.
“I think it is a real milestone for Hong Kong rugby and I said to the guys after the game ‘you have created a bit of history today’.
“There is no other Hong Kong team that has come here and won as comfortably as they did today.”
The win featured six tries but was built win on a sterling defensive display. Hong Kong were rarely troubled in the opening 60 minutes, with back rowers Nick Hewson and Thomas Lamboley in everything.
“I thought our defence was outstanding and we showed at times that we can play a bit as well,” Jones said.
“I talked about the fact that even though we have made a significant amount of progress, I think there is that much growth again in the team.”
An 11th-minute try to second rower James Cunningham kick-started a brilliant 10 minutes for Hong Kong, with centres Tyler Spitz and Lex Kaleca also crossing as the visitors opened up a 21-0 lead.
Full back Jamie Hood was deadly from the tee, converting all three tries and nailing a penalty as Hong Kong went into half-time with a healthy 24-5 lead.
The home side weren’t without their chances but they were unable to generate any points until Kim Gwong-min crossed close to the break.
Hong Kong secured a bonus point with their fourth try early in the second half, with fly half Matt Rosslee sending winger Salom Yiu Kam-shing over.
Spitz notched his second minutes later as the score ballooned to 38-5 after 48 minutes, however Korea wouldn’t lay down and took it to Hong Kong for the rest of the match.
A 63rd-minute Ally Maclay try was cancelled out by one to Korea No 8 Lee Yong-seung, before Kim Hyun-soo crossed to trim the margin further.
“I was disappointed with the last 20 minutes, allowing Korea some foothold,” Jones said. “It’s the second time I’ve put substitutions on and they haven’t responded.
“That said, it was kind of the context of the game as well, the game was well won and the guys wanted to go on and just play and I get that as well.
“The unstructured stuff suits Korea so the last 20 minutes our approach probably helped Korea rather than consolidated what we had done in the first 60 minutes.”
Hood continued his sublime kicking display in the second half, adding two conversions and narrowly missing one difficult chance.
Despite the magnitude of the win, Jones was quick to turn his focus to wrapping up the series on home soil next Saturday.
“We won’t get too carried away, as without a result next week it means nothing,” he said. “We expect a backlash [from Korea] but we have got to be good enough to cope with that backlash and move forward.”