HK on song despite whistle blower
One could have composed a symphony to the sound of the referee's whistle which cut all the rhythm out of yesterday's international between Hong Kong and Singapore.
But despite the stop-start nature of the game, Hong Kong had all the moves and danced their way to a crushing 47-14 victory, scoring six tries in the process. Fullback Andrew Chambers scored a brace while centre Jason Going, forwards Kelvin Yip Kwok-ho and Tom Cameron and scrumhalf Andrew Wong Kee also touched down.
Chinese referee Wu Wei obviously believed in going according to the book rather than applying the spirit of the laws of rugby. It made for a poor spectacle as the game meandered from one penalty to the next. However, this lack of continuity did not prevent Hong Kong from giving new head coach Ivan Torpey a clean two-out-of-two win record. 'I'm delighted at the improvement on our last performance. It was a match played under difficult circumstances as the game was very disjointed. But I'm pleased with the way the guys kept their structure and organisation,' said Torpey.
Earlier this month, against the Arabian Gulf, Hong Kong looked toothless in attack as they struggled to a 12-5 victory with all the points coming off the boot of scrumhalf Rob Naylor. Yesterday, Naylor scored 13 points, including three penalties. But his kicking was not crucial to the outcome of the match as the firepower was spread through the team.
'It was good to score tries today. Our execution was much better and I believe this was due to our structured play. When the forwards raise their heads, we know where the ball is going to be and this is a big difference from the past,' said skipper and lock Lachlin Miller.
Torpey is a great believer in gaining ground by tactical kicking and then organising his attack from first-phase play. Hong Kong easily dominated in this area, especially in the scrums. Singapore while hungrier at the breakdown, were overpowered in the set pieces giving Hong Kong loads of possession.
Hong Kong were never in any real danger of losing control, apart from an early stutter when Singapore led 8-0 inside the first 10 minutes of play. A try to right wing Li Renchong and a penalty from flyhalf Marcus Blackburn, one of two expatriates in the team, saw the home side take a surprise lead.
But it was short-lived. Number eight Justin Gregory settled the team's nerves when, from a scrum inside the Singapore 22, he picked up the ball and created the move which led to Going scoring Hong Kong's first try. That was soon followed by an opportunistic try by Cameron from a penalty attempt by Naylor hitting the post.
Naylor converted and Hong Kong breathed more easily. Three more penalties by Naylor stretched the lead to 21-8 at half-time. Flanker Yip extended the lead when he was quick to pounce on a loose ball off a lineout near the Singapore line and score close to the posts giving Naylor an easy conversion. Singapore knocked over two penalties to reduce the deficit to 28-14. With 55 minutes gone, Naylor was subbed and Wong Kee came on. His presence immediately added more spontaneity to Hong Kong. A long cut-out pass from centre Brett Forsyth saw Chambers score his first try and then a superb diagonal kick by flyhalf Ben Harris saw Chambers run on to the high ball, collect it and complete his brace.
Rowan Varty made his debut, coming on for Simon Hague, but it was Wong Kee who stole the limelight when he scored the try of the match, daintily picking his way 30 metres, from the side of a ruck and down the left touchline to score untouched under the posts. Debutant Varty didn't touch the ball in the 10 minutes he was on the field. But it didn't matter, for Hong Kong's hip-hop had waltzed to a win.