HK fail to capitalise on Kazakhstan sin-bins
Kazakhstan underlined their growing status as a dominant force in Asia when they out-muscled and out-gunned Hong Kong to run out 25-6 winners and grab the runners-up slot in the HSBC Asian Five Nations which ended in Almaty yesterday.
Although they played 20 minutes of the second half with only 13 men - four players being sin-binned in two separate periods - Kazakhstan still had too much firepower for a clueless Hong Kong who couldn't quite come to grips with the cold and wet conditions. 'We were not experienced enough to capitalise when they were down to 13 men. We were not up to the task,' said Hong Kong head coach Dai Rees. 'There were a few poor performances from us today.'
Hong Kong were outplayed in the contact area by the Kazakhstan forwards who laid the foundation for the three-try victory. It enabled them to finish behind champions Japan in the second year of this tournament. South Korea came third while Hong Kong had to settle for fourth position. Singapore will be relegated after losing 45-15 to Japan on Saturday.
Hong Kong struggled to find their feet in the first half with their set-pieces under pressure from the Kazakhstan forwards who laid the foundation for a 14-3 lead at the break.
The home team scored two tries through their hard-working back-row, with skipper Timur Mashurov grabbing the first and outstanding flanker Anton Rudoy the second as they came back from an early deficit after Hong Kong flyhalf Kenzo Pannell knocked over an early penalty. Hong Kong's potent backline which included two hat-trick scorers - winger Adam Raby and centre Rowan Varty - were cast into a defensive role as they struggled for possession.
The scrum was under immense pressure, time and again being turned by the bigger Kazakhstan pack, while the lineout also struggled, resulting in scrappy possession for Hong Kong in the first half.
Pannell drew first blood converting a 25-metre penalty. But the home team hit back almost immediately with Mashurov on hand to complete a second-phase move.
This was doubled on the half-hour by Rudoy. Centre Ildar Abdradov scored Kazakhstan's third try late in the second half with the only reply coming from the boot of sub Keith Robertson. Fullback Maxim Lifontov knocked over two conversions and two penalties for Kazakhstan.
'Once they were in the lead, they were a bit one-dimensional, but they absorbed the pressure well,' Rees said. 'This is a learning curve for us.'