Marvel Varty rises to international challenge
Mini-marvel Rowan Varty made a stunning home debut, scoring two superbly executed tries as Hong Kong easily defeated an under-strength China 27-9 in a one-off international on the artificial strip at King's Park yesterday.
On his Hong Kong debut a fortnight ago, in Singapore, the 18-year-old winger came on as a substitute for the last 10 minutes of the match and watched in frustration as the ball never travelled down the line. It was so different yesterday.
Firstly, Varty started on the left wing, and hardly a minute had lapsed when he got his first touch of the ball on the international stage. And he made the most of it when he brilliantly rounded two Chinese defenders to score after a 20-metre run.
'My coaches Ivan [Torpey] and Terry [Hart] had been telling me all week to have a go if I got the ball. And when I got the ball I decided to do just that and have a go. I was really happy just to start and to score a try with my first touch of the ball was absolutely brilliant,' said an ecstatic Varty.
Inside centre Andrew Wong Kee began the move that ended in Varty's try. A short sharp burst from Wong Kee took play into Chinese territory. The ball was quickly recycled from the ensuing breakdown and fellow-centre Jason Going sliced the defence before passing to Varty just inside the 22. Varty, judging his run superbly, slipped past his opposite number and then rounded a last defender to score a try he will long remember.
'It was like a dream come true for I had scored in front of my family and friends. I like playing at King's Park. I started playing rugby here, first for Kai Tak Mini Rugby Club and then for DeA. I can't believe I'm now playing for Hong Kong,' said Varty.
He capped his dream home debut by scoring a second try early in the second half when he formed the overlap to score unopposed under the posts. Those two tries coupled with the fact that he played the whole game speaks volumes for the faith the Hong Kong management had in the teenager yesterday.
'What a lovely start for Rowan. After not touching the ball on his debut, it was lovely for him to score in front of his family and friends with his first touch of the ball. The second try showed he is a good winger, finishing the job on hand,' said Torpey.
Hong Kong ruled the set-pieces thanks to a strong scrum with tight five Pete Spizzirri, Tom Cameron, Mick Russell, James Wood and skipper Lachlin Miller, dominating. Miller ruled in the lineouts too, giving his side loads of possession. Although Hong Kong scored four tries - Wong Kee and fullback Andrew Chambers also getting into the act - they let slip the opportunity to really turn on the screws.
China must take credit for never giving up, especially their forwards who played bravely in the face of insurmountable odds - a dozen PLA players were not available for selection after they failed to get visas for Hong Kong.
'We had to choose only from players from the Chinese Agricultural University and Shanghai. Half our team is not here,' said a despondent manager Zhong Min before the match. The Chinese only had one extra player on the bench.
Hong Kong had a full bench. But two former subs, Varty and Wong Kee, were in the thick of action all game long. Wong Kee proved his worth many times over with a strong performance. He touched down in the first half, and then turned provider for Chambers in the second half when he delivered a lovely and well-timed cut-out pass for the fullback to run on to at speed and break through the defence. Scrumhalf Rob Naylor converted two tries and also a penalty to keep Hong Kong well in front.
But it was China who finished stronger at the end, besieging Hong Kong's tryline. Captain and fullback Zhang Zhiqiang knocked over three penalties but poor handling and a backline bereft of creativity robbed China of any chance of crossing Hong Kong's try-line.
'I was very pleased with our defence. We have now only conceded two tries from three games. I'm happy to see some solid individual performances,' said Torpey.
He must have had Varty and Wong Kee in mind.