Rampant Hong Kong in nine-try blitz
Four tries from Adam Raby, a hat-trick from Rowan Varty and a brace from Simon Smith lifted Hong Kong to a comfortable 64-6 win over Singapore in the HSBC Asian Five Nations at Football Club yesterday.
The unbridled and explosive display from the rampant backline was a joy to watch. And the delight was heightened by the fact that Hong Kong now have a good chance of finishing second in the competition if they defeat Kazakhstan in their final outing next week in Almaty.
'We are playing with width and shape, our defensive systems are working and I still think that we can go away [to Kazakhstan] and finish second,' predicted Hong Kong head coach Dai Rees.
Rees couldn't have been more delighted with the performance that led to the nine-try blitz. True, it was only minnows Singapore, but winning like this, in style, will just add poise to a squad who he says are still 'growing' in confidence.
Raby epitomises that confidence. Playing in only his second international, the left winger revelled on his home pitch as he crossed the line four times in the second half - one more than against South Korea last week. So will it be five next week? Raby laughed: 'I'm playing with a smile right now. Maybe it will be five or maybe it will be nothing. That all depends on how the team play. I just finish it.'
Seven tries in two internationals has underlined his ability to deliver. And yesterday he had to thank man-of-the-match Varty for providing most of the spoils that came his way.
Varty was switched to outside centre before this tournament began. Against Japan and South Korea, he hardly had the room to show his flair. Unfortunately for Singapore, they came up against a player chomping at the bit to prove his aptitude to attack and boy did he enjoy it as he ran rings around the defence almost at will.
Varty's best try was his first. Singapore flyhalf John Forrester had missed a penalty and from the re-start, Nigel Clarke took a quick grubber at the 22, picked up and passed to Varty, who set off on a run. He beat three defenders through pace and his power saw him burst through three more before touching down.
'I'm really enjoying playing at 13,' said Varty as Hong Kong led 24-6 at the break with dependable winger Smith also grabbing a brace.
The bonus point for scoring four tries was assured early in the second half when Raby went over for his first try. Another powerful 50-metre burst from Varty led to Raby's second try. Varty had support on both shoulders, with Simon Hempel also tearing in, before he unselfishly unloaded to Raby who took the score to 38-6
Two more tries saw Hong Kong hit a half-century with 15 minutes still left. But with 10 minutes to go, Nick Hurrell earned his second yellow card to be dismissed from the match - his first was for a tango on the floor with Singapore prop Nick Dance - leaving Hong Kong with 14 men.
They went down to 13 when sub scrumhalf Tim Alexander limped off the field with an injury. But by then Hong Kong were home and dry.
'Scoring nine tries was pleasing and we didn't allow them to cross our line,' said skipper Jon Abel.
Singapore's points came off the boot of flyhalf Forrester knocking over two penalties, but it was his opposite number, Kenzo Pannell, who had more opportunities as he collected 17 points from seven conversions and a penalty. Hong Kong fullback Mike Mckee knocked over the last conversion as Hong Kong ensured they would remain in Asia's top tier next season and thus keep alive the hopes of qualifying for the 2011 World Cup.
Meanwhile, Japan completed their title defence with a 80-9 victory over South Korea in Osaka yesterday.