Hong Kong thump Malaysia 67-8 as road to Rugby World Cup 2019 begins in style
Coach Leigh Jones is happy his charges handled the slippery conditions with aplomb to set a marker in the tournament but wants to see improvement
Hong Kong manhandled Malaysia with a 10-try, 67-8, rout in a wet and humid Kuala Lumpur on Saturday to clear the first hurdle on the Road to Rugby World Cup 2019.
Hong Kong mastered their opponents in the first half and the conditions in the second as the heavens opened after forty minutes, adding even more grease to a slippy ball. That didn’t stop the boys in blue however, as they extended a 27-5 lead at the break into an eventual 67-8 victory in their first Asia Rugby Championship (ARC) action of the season.
“We started slowly but finished strongly,” said coach Leigh Jones. “I’m reasonably happy. With conditions as they were last week we didn’t know what to expect today and it was again difficult to play, but I was pleased with our strike rate.
“We managed to finish off a lot of tries; there were also a lot of errors that I wouldn’t like to see normally, but I think many of those were down to the conditions.”
The bonus point win lifts Hong Kong into coequal position at the top of the table on five points, level with South Korea, whom Hong Kong will face next week in Incheon.
Thomas Lamboley and Salom Yiu Kam-shing scored two tries apiece for Hong Kong while there was one each for Jack Neville, Liam Slaten, Jamie Pincott, Conor Hartley, Jack Parfitt and Robbie Keith.
Matt Rosslee kicked on penalty for the visitors. For Malaysia, Fijian recruit Etonia Saukuru scored their only try in the first half.
“It was a difficult game with the weather and the fact that Malaysia were looking to slow it down at every opportunity, so it was a bit of a stop-start affair,” added Jones. “But I thought it was a very competent second half performance in particular, very professional, and we have come out of it unscathed as well. No injuries today and a few players coming back next week, so we are in a very positive place going into Korea next week,” Jones concluded.
Jones was pleased with the way his bench added value as well today.
“We thought they would add value and they did well. It is a 23-man game, I know it is a cliché, but it is right. We thought the guys would come on and make a difference and they certainly did that.
“I was particularly pleased to see young Max Denmark go. I’m very pleased with his development and it was good to get a chance to look at guys like Jamie Lauder, [who earned his first Hong Kong cap today], off the back of some great club performances this season,” Jones added.
Denmark was one of Hong Kong’s star players at the Hong Kong Sevens last month and is now making his mark in the 15s team with his powerful running.
The victory was a boost for James Cunningham in his first match as Hong Kong captain.
“I’m really happy with how the boys went today,” said Cunningham. “We held our composure under some real pressure at the start and played some good footy.
“The ball got away from us at times, but we were able to come back and put some points on the board, which is what we wanted to do.”
Malaysia were bolstered by the inclusion of several of their naturalised players from the Pacific Islands and enjoyed the better start, capitalising on a somewhat sluggish opening by their opponents.
But they were never going to hold out for very long against a superior Hong Kong side, who will host Malaysia in the second leg on May 26.