Mark Pawley, the general manager of Hong Kong Football Club, was spotted holding some garlic before the crucial game between Hong Kong and South Korea last Saturday. Was it to drive away the demons that have plagued Hong Kong in the past couple of years against Korea? If so, Mark’s hidden talents in exorcism worked like a dream as Hong Kong crushed Korea 39-6 in a devilishly delightful display. Nick Hewson and his side exerted tremendous pressure defensively and their opponents cracked under the stress, allowing Hong Kong to run in five tries. And lady luck smiled on Hong Kong with Japanese referee Taku Otsuki failing to spot the knock-on by centre Jake Phelps as he scored the first crucial try. Common sense and past results say Japan will be a bridge too far. But [Nick] Hewson has challenged his teammates to ‘dare to dream’ The old saying that you create your own luck came true as Hong Kong weathered the early storm by Korea before taking control of the game with a cool-headed performance embodied by the drop-goal from fullback Alex McQueen midway through the first half. It was a very workmanlike performance. Korea were expected to present a headache in the set pieces, especially the scrum, but Hong Kong’s front row of the ever-impressive Leon Wei Hon-sum, Tom Bolland and James Cooper were rock solid and, together with second-rowers Jack Delaforce and Paul Dwyer, presented a firm foundation. After the Sri Lanka game in Colombo, head coach Leigh Jones expressed his unhappiness at the breakdown. Hewson, Matt Lamming and Pale Tauti rose to that challenge in the contact area, turning over a lot of possession to put the Koreans on the back foot. Fly-half Chris McAdam bonded seamlessly with scrum-half Pete McKee and was picked as one of the key players by coach Jones for his brave tackling. Namesake Lloyd Jones and Phelps were also a formidable duo in midfield both in defence and attack. The Hong Kong Football Club pairing have been outstanding in their three games together and it will be tough for another Jones, Lee, to win back his place when fit. Then there was the back three of Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Rowan Varty and McQueen. Yiu once again proved he is one of the best finishers while Varty, who is probably the only player in Asia to score a hat-trick of tries against Japan, was on top of his game. His first-half try-saving effort was a key moment. South Korea are a side which thrives on confidence and momentum. They are like the Pakistan of cricket, a team which enjoys playing on the front foot. But under pressure they can buckle. Former Hong Kong hooker Dave Lewis paid tribute to the home team’s performance when he said “Korea was not a bad side”. Now we are just one game away from the World Cup, but standing in the way is Japan and Hong Kong will have to play the way they did against Korea, and much more, if they are to stand any chance of pushing the Asian champions all the way. Common sense and past results say Japan will be a bridge too far. But Hewson has challenged his teammates to “dare to dream”. Sport has the wondrous quality to throw up surprises and upsets and who knows what might happen on May 25 in Tokyo. Remember the “Miracle on Ice” when an amateur USA team defeated gold-medal favourites Russia in the 1980 Winter Olympics? What about when Samoa defeated the Wallabies 32-23 at the 2011 World Cup? Or North Korea beating Italy at the 1966 (soccer) World Cup finals? Perhaps Hong Kong might have to take “Mark the exorcist” to Tokyo with a handful of French garlic to add some flavour to what is bound to be a mouth-watering game.