HONG Kong's Mark McMahon and Noel Kennedy are only two wins away from repeating their 1988 International Classic triumph following a narrow escape against defending champions Scotland in the quarter-finals yesterday. The Hong Kong duo, who finished on top of Section A despite losing 24-20 to New Zealand in their final group match, battled back from 15-2 down against Scotland to score a thrilling 20-19 victory at Austin Road. The win thrust Hong Kong into the semi-finals against South Africa and denied the Scottish pair of Alex Marshall and Graham Robertson a chance to repeat their 1990 victory - the last time the tournament was held. Scotland sneaked into the quarter-finals after finishing fourth in Section B. And for a while it looked like they would knock high-flying Hong Kong from grace by taking a 15-2 lead after nine ends of the 21-end match. Said McMahon: ''I'm delighted to win after being so far down against a team of Scotland's quality.'' South Africa, making their first appearance in Hong Kong, turned back a late charge by New Zealand's Phil Skoglund and Michael Kernaghan to win 20-18. The South African duo of Kevin Campbell and Ashley van Winkel finished second in Section B after the group matches, behind the Lawn Bowls Association of Hong Kong. The impressive week-long efforts of LBA's Danny Ho and Mel Stewart, however, came to nothing when they were beaten in the quarter-finals, 20-16, by Wales. The Welsh pair of Will Thomas and Robert Weale qualified for the last eight by securing fourth place in Section A, ahead of China Light and Power on shot difference. The top four teams from each of the two 10-team sections advanced to the quarter-finals. Wales will meet a strong Israel side for a place in the final. Israel's South African-born players Jeff Rabkin and Cecil Bransky finished second behind Hong Kong on shot difference and have looked impressive during the week. They beat the third-placed team in Section B - Australia's Cameron Curtis and Ian Taylor - 19-14 to earn their place in the semi-finals. Bransky will also be out to make amends for his loss in last week's singles final, when he relinquished a 24-4 lead against Scot Robertson. Robertson saw the kind of concentration and perseverance he used against Bransky last week in McMahon and Kennedy during yesterday's quarter-final. Any pair in the world would have been given little chance of overturning a 15-2 deficit against Marshall and Robertson. But McMahon and Kennedy stuck to the task, picking up seven precious shots in two ends to get back into the match. Hong Kong fought back to 18-18 in the 19th end and then needed the measuring tape to eke out two more priceless shots in the penultimate end to go 20-18 up. Marshall succeeded in burning the final end once when he drove the jack out of play. But the Scots failed to get the shots required to level or win the match, settling for a single to make the final score 20-19 in Hong Kong's favour. All four women's teams in the competition failed to make it to the quarter-finals. The Hong Kong women's team of Linda Smith and Lena Yeung finished second from bottom in Section B ahead of Hong Kong Football Club's Ran Lakoon and Mike Galland. The British Isles women's duo of Norma Shaw and Margaret Johnston were sixth in Section B, three points off fourth-placed New Zealand. The Ladies Lawn Bowls Association and Australian women ended at the bottom of Section A. LLBA's Noelene Hill and Sinina Yau finished last with one victory while Edda Bonutto and Daphne Shaw, of Australia, were one place above them with two wins. But the inclusion of women in the competition, for the first time, has helped generate more interest in the tournament, which was the main objective of the organisers. The women had outstanding performances in last week's singles competition, with Yeung reaching the quarter-finals stages.