Hong Kong just one stage away from Rugby World Cup qualification after rare full-capacity stadium treated to Cook Islands demolition
The dream lives on as home team provide 2,750 delighted spectators a grand performance as they move closer to Japan
Hong Kong’s dreams of qualifying for their first-ever Rugby World Cup continues after a scintillating 51-0 shutout of the Cook Islands in leg two of the repechage play-off on Saturday evening. Hong Kong Football Club stadium reached its full-capacity – 2,750 – as the home fans start to believe.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a full house at the Football Club for an international before,” said coach Andrew Hall. “It was outstanding and we’re so pleased at the support we received today – a massive thanks to Hong Kong rugby fans.”
Full-time at HKFC where the Hong Kong have beaten the Cook Islands 51-0. pic.twitter.com/DnDEQsgjBL
— HKRU (@HongKongRugby) July 7, 2018
Having made the burdensome 25-hour trip to the Cook Islands for the first leg, which Hong Kong won 26-3, Leigh Jones’ men were adamant not to look past the Pacific Islanders until the final whistle.
“Now we officially can [look ahead to the repechage],” said Hall with a grin. “The challenges keep coming, they’ll enjoy this as they rightly should, and back to it towards the middle of July with all eyes on that next challenge; the dream lives on.”
Tries from Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Max Woodward, Jamie Hood, Alex Post and a sound kicking game by Matthew Roslee ensured another impressive display of dominance as Hong Kong muscled to a second clean sheet on the trot.
“Massive credit to our defensive coach [Craig Hammond] to nil them – no tries in two games – credit to him and the players … to deliver that after a tough journey to the Cook Islands is amazing,” added Hall. “We’ll have to carry that into November because it’ll be even tighter when we get to France.”
As aggregate winners, Hong Kong move into a four-team repechage played in November this year, just one stage away from qualifying for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, its inaugural Asia event. They will face Canada, the loser of Germany v Samoa and the runner up of the Africa Cup.
“There is a lot of belief, but grounded belief, and we know how hard we need to work to get to where we have done and beyond,” said Hall. “We are fully aware of where we need to progress.”
A delighted local fan Wesley Chin Chun-chung roamed around Football Club in full-Hong Kong colours and flags as his team marched on to victory.
“I’ve been watching rugby for twelve years and this is a proud moment for Hongkongers,” said Chin. “So many years without qualifying, the women’s team have done so, so it’s about time the men’s did, too. I think we have a chance.
“I hope we can spread the support to more Hongkongers and show that the team has a following,” he added. “I would encourage sevens fans to watch fifteens because its easier to watch ... the sevens is one a year and you don’t even know if you can get tickets – you can definitely get tickets here.”
As for the current World Cup hype, Chin brushes it aside: “When you compare rugby to football, footballers play 90 minutes and sometimes don’t score. I started watching rugby as a result – it’s just a more exciting sport.”
Hall and staff intend to keep their disciplined defensive shape as the games only get tougher as they march onwards and upwards. “Look at any first class international team, their defence is impeccable - particularly with knockout rugby. Both the away game and this game our defence was superb so we’ll be looking to carry that on,” he said.