Varty shows his promise with try hat-trick on HK debut

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 January, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 January, 2003, 12:00am

KGV schoolboy Rowan Varty made a stunning debut for Hong Kong when he scored a superb hat-trick against Sri Lanka in the preliminary round of the Asian Under 19 tournament at Happy Valley yesterday.

The 16-year-old Varty, who had not played at this level before as he was regarded as too young, made up for lost time with a match-winning performance which enabled Hong Kong to win 22-0 and begin their campaign to qualify for this year's Under-19 World Championship on a sound note.

'This is my first game for the Under-19s. I did not play before as I was too young. It is a fantastic way to start, a great debut,' said an elated Varty.

Accustomed to playing at inside centre, Varty was moved out wide to left wing yesterday. And he proved he has the killer instinct and the knack to finish off moves with a flourish.

His first two tries, both in the first half, came off well-worked moves on the blindside. The first was a peach and came off a five-metre scrum which saw impressive No 8 Ryan McBride pick up, feed hard-working scrumhalf Fan Chun-kei who then found Varty on his shoulder. Simple and uncomplicated.

Varty was involved at both the start and finish of the second try. He collected a poor clearance inside his own half and punted deep. The Sri Lankans made a hash of the high ball and turned over possession which resulted in the ball being shipped out wide for Varty to go over.

'All the tries I scored came from moves we had practised. It was all down to team work and I used my pace,' said Varty, who has come up through the ranks of local rugby. He played mini-rugby for the Kai Tak Tigers and then progressed through to the Hong Kong Under 14s and Under 16s.

Varty's two tries saw Hong Kong reach the break leading 10-0. With a heavier and taller pack, the home team dominated the set pieces. They also over-powered the Sri Lankans at the breakdown, invariably turning over possession that helped them keep play well inside their opponents' half of the field.

Lock Charles French set the ball rolling in the second half when he crashed over under the posts from a period of sustained pressure. Substitute Rowan Turner knocked over the conversion to see Hong Kong extend their lead to 17-0.

Varty then completed a dream debut when he wrapped up another simple but effective move. A scrum in the middle of the field saw the options open for Hong Kong who choose to swing the ball down Varty's way. He took the straight route towards his third try, touching down left-handed with a couple of opponents desperately trying to hold him off.

'We were undone by the strength factor. The Hong Kong forwards were too big and heavy for us. It was a disappointing performance,' said Sri Lankan coach Asanga Seneviratne.

Varty's three-try blitz helped Hong Kong to the best possible start in the week-long 10-team tournament which also serves as the regional qualifying event for the IRB/FIRA Under 19 World Championship being held in France in April.

'Our goal is to finish as the best team other than Japan, Korea or Taiwan who have already qualified for the World event,' said head coach Terry Hart. 'This is a good start.'

Japan, Korea and Chinese-Taipei have qualified for the April 7-20 World Championship by virtue of their ranking at last year's tournament in Chile. Sri Lanka were the fourth team to represent Asia last time. But on yesterday's evidence, it looks as if Hong Kong could be the side flying to France, come April.

The win over Sri Lanka puts Hong Kong in a commanding position to finish Pool B in second place. Japan are favourites to take top spot. A runner-up slot in the preliminary pool competition will see Hong Kong meet the second-placed team in Pool A, which by all accounts will be either Korea or Taiwan, for the Plate trophy.

In other matches yesterday, Korea beat Thailand 55-8 while Taiwan defeated Malaysia 35-8. Japan thumped Singapore 50-0.