Front-row trio prove their worth as HK crush Kenya
The first signs of how important the new front row of Ian Ridgeway, Tom Bolland and Steve Nolan will be to Hong Kong were seen in a dominant second-half display against Kenya at the Emirates Airlines Cup of Nations. Hong Kong took a huge step towards winning the inaugural tournament by defeating Kenya 44-17 in their second match in the four-nation tournament in Dubai.
Having crushed hosts the United Arab Emirates 74-12 in the opening game last week, coach Dai Rees decided to experiment and began with the Hong Kong Football Club trio on the bench. It showed, as Hong Kong struggled to secure a good set-piece ball, and with indiscipline also rearing its head trailed 12-10 at the break.
'We had the opportunity to take a few risks and decided to start with all of them on the bench. It wasn't a particularly good first-half performance from us, and to make it worse we were down to 14 men for 20 minutes with two players being sin-binned,' said Rees.
A robust Kenyan outfit rattled Hong Kong, who lost pack leader Pale Tauti to the sin-bin, to take a slender lead at half-time. But two significant changes at the turnaround - Ridgeway and Bolland coming on for loosehead prop Andy Li and hooker Alex Harris - followed by tighthead Nolan coming on 10 minutes later changed the complexion of the game.
'We started to dominate the set-pieces with the front row having a significant impact. It swung things our way,' said Rees. 'Our maturity came through in the second half.'
In the end it was a comfortable victory with Hong Kong planting six tries with second-rower Charles French grabbing a brace, while flanker Mark Goosen, No8 Tauti and wingers Adam Raby and Rowan Varty scoring one each. 'It was a good test for us, and overall I'm pleased with our performance,' said Rees.
Hong Kong will meet Brazil tomorrow in a winners-take-all game, where the prize will be a move up the International Rugby Board world rankings. Hong Kong are ranked 29th and a win over unbeaten Brazil could see them move into the mid-20s.
The Dubai tour is being used by Hong Kong as preparation for the 2012 HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five competition in April.
Brazil's rugby world ranking, four places below Hong Kong
- Kenya are at No35
- The UAE have no ranking