‘Massive’ win over South Korea has Hong Kong atop Asia Rugby Championship table
Jones’ charges perform well in the wind and rain to defeat the Koreans for their second away win in the competition in as many weeks to set up a grand finale at home
Hong Kong outlasted South Korea 30-21 on Saturday in a rain-drenched Incheon to complete a clean sweep of their away matches in the 2018 Asia Rugby Championship.
The victory, which coach Leigh Jones called a “massive win” post-match, lifts Hong Kong into sole possession of first place on the table (9 points), ahead of South Korea (5) and Malaysia (0) and sets Hong Kong up to finish with a massive home stand at the end of the month.
Hong Kong were frustrated by the conditions for a second week as the hoped for dry weather never materialised in Incheon with cold, wet and windy conditions throughout the match.
South Korea managed the conditions better, scoring three pretty tries to Hong Kong’s two, including two late tries that threatened Hong Kong’s dominance and left the hosts trailing by just one converted try (21-27) with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Given the high, swirling winds, flyhalf Matt Rosslee had a good day with the boot, converting six of seven penalty attempts and a single conversion to account for 20 of Hong Kong’s 30 points.
Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones was pleased with his charges’ performance, a week after the visitors trounced Malaysia in their opening game.
“Looking at it in context, it is a massive win. It is the strongest Korean side that I have been involved against and they have all their players back from Japan. So the win in that context is massive for us,” said Jones.
“I was really pleased with the first half. We put pressure on and got our due reward. It seems we lost our way in the second half. Our kicking game wasn’t great, our kick-off receipt wasn’t good enough, and we ended up putting ourselves under pressure. The good thing is we can fix those. Those are easy mends.
“But we let them back into it. Whereas in the first half we were competent and did a very professional job against them we let them back into it in the second half. We need to do that for 80 and not 40
minutes. “I think they made a grave error not going for the bonus point at the end, but that result sets us up really well now to win the championship. We will need to be professional against Malaysia, but it sets up a great finale at home against Korea in front of our home crowd,” added Jones.
Rosslee put the first points on the board in the fourth minute with a successful penalty, but South Korea replied shortly thereafter with the first of three well worked tries, as winger Jang Jeong-min tiptoed down the sideline to score early on. An excellent conversion from flyhalf Oh Youn-hyung lifted Korean heads even further as they took their first lead at 7-3.
The Koreans let themselves down and let Hong Kong off the hook over the remainder of the half as they conceded a dozen penalties in the opening stanza, giving Hong Kong repeated possession and affording Rosslee more shots at goal as he added two more penalties before half-time. Scrumhalf Liam Slatem continued to impress on his return to national duty from injury.
The South African’s decision-making at the pivot was crucial throughout the game and told once again late in the half after he backed himself from an attacking scrum to crash over captain and No. 8 Lee Young-seung for the try. Rosslee’s conversion was successful as Hong Kong led 21-7 at the half.
Despite having what should have been a commanding lead at the break, Hong Kong let Korea back into the game in the second half as the hosts threw everything into their attack and predictably capitalised on some loose play early on in what was a scrappy second stanza.