Lack of pace again catches up with gallant Hong Kong
Hong Kong played with a lot of fire and heart. But that combustible mix failed to generate enough pace as the home team began their 2004 campaign with a 21-0 loss to Canada.
The Hong Kong Dragon breathed fire. But sadly all the possession that Hong Kong had went to waste as once again the old bogey - the lack of a player with true pace - struck.
'We made a lot of play but we didn't make the breaks,' said Hong Kong coach Dallas Seymour. He knows how important it is to have a player or two who can turn on the speed, having played for New Zealand in four Cup-winning teams in Hong Kong.
But since taking over as sevens coach - with the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union looking ahead to next year's Rugby World Cup Sevens - earlier this year, he has found that his adopted union lacks players with wheels.
'We do lack the wheels. But if we play to our pattern and execute our game plan, we will be OK. We can't do anything about this game. Now we must look to our next two games against Fiji and Portugal. The team will be playing in front of their home crowd and they should use it to good effect,' said Seymour.
Hong Kong held Canada to just one try in the first half - Stirling Richmond breaking free off an oppressive defence to break a deadlock midway through the first half.
Winning plenty of ball at the breakdown and on the floor, with Paul Dingley and Andrew Wong Kee doing yeoman service, Hong Kong came back strongly as they kept play inside the Canadian half for the rest of the half.
But wrong options and mistakes under pressure cost Hong Kong at least a couple of tries. On one occasion, Carl Murray knocked on five metres from the line after following up his grubber kick.
Then there was further despair when Andrew Chambers, given the opportunity to go wide, decided to kick and chase rather than have a go for the left corner flag with ball in hand.
'We had the majority of the ball in the first half but we didn't take it forward. We also had our opportunities out wide but didn't take it,' said a disappointed Rodney McIntosh, assistant Hong Kong coach.
Both of Canada's two tries came from basic errors by Hong Kong. The first came when Murray, taking a Hong Kong penalty, failed to find touch with his kick going into the dead ball area, resulting in play coming back to the halfway mark. From the subsequent scrum, Canada's Mike Danskin rounded off a free-flowing move with the ball being carried at pace.
Richmond then added his second try of the match after Canada capitalised on a Hong Kong knock-on to put the result out of Hong Kong's reach.
'Hong Kong played well and with a lot of fire. We knew they would be coming at us and would be breathing fire so we tried to take their oxygen away,' said Canada's coach Rick Suggitt.
'We want to do better than last year when we won the Plate. We want to be contesting the Cup this time,' added Suggitt.
Canada defeated Hong Kong 29-0 in the Plate quarter-finals last year. Going on those results, Hong Kong's performance yesterday was a huge improvement.
'We made a few basic errors today. But they will learn. It is all about learning to absorb the pressure. We had lots of ball today. New we need to learn how to use that ball,' said Seymour after watching Hong Kong's first game in the international arena under his charge.
Undoubtedly, the fire was there in the belly of the Hong Kong Dragon. But sadly, Hong Kong lacked the legs, once again.