Hong Kong captain Nick Hewson eyes Russia as Thomas Lamboley stars on debut in Cup of Nations
A 34-11 win over Zimbabwe makes it two from two in the series for the hosts ahead of the weekend’s final round of matches
Captain Nick Hewson is confident Hong Kong are significantly better placed to challenge for overall victory in the Cup of Nations now than they were 12 months ago.
After returning to the side in a convincing 34-11 win over Zimbabwe on Tuesday night at King’s Park, Hewson was quick to turn his attention to Saturday’s series decider against Russia.
“We can go in with a bit of confidence but it’s another step up playing Russia,” he said.
“We are well ahead of last year. We are creating more plays, the ball carriers are better and the defence is pretty strong.”
That Hong Kong prevailed comfortably with a completely new starting 15 to the one that posted a first up win over Papua New Guinea shows the progress being made under the elite rugby programme.
Whether Hong Kong can go one better than last year – when they lost 31-12 to Russia – remains to be seen and Hewson knows the side has a big few days ahead.
“We executed some stuff that we trained for [against Zimbabwe] but I think overall we are probably a bit disappointed that in the second half we didn’t execute the chances that we created,” he said.
“The backs were creating opportunities, so hopefully on Saturday we can execute a few more of those. “Obviously against Russia you have got to take every opportunity that comes your way so I think that is going to be a big drive come Thursday, Friday, is getting our accuracy right.”
Thomas Lamboley, who moved to Hong Kong from France just over three years ago to play for Valley, was the most impressive of the three debutants.
“He carried really well, his defence was solid, he got over the ball and he was his silky old self,” Hewson said of his Valley teammate.
26-year-old Lamboley, who has played in the seconds for French Top 14 side Toulouse, looked right at home in the Hong Kong jersey.
“I was very proud and honoured to play my first time for Hong Kong,” he said.
“We managed to play wide and wide and score a few tries, and our scrum was better than theirs.”
Hong Kong got off to a blistering start, with tries to prop Alex Ng Wai-shing and fullback Alex McQueen in the first seven minutes seeing them streak out to a 14-0 lead.
The hosts played with serious confidence early, moving the ball with purpose and producing some exhilarating play, but faded to lead only 17-3 at the break.
Watch: Hong Kong v Zimbabwe highlights
The urgency returned to start the second half and tries to Lamboley and a second to McQueen saw Hong Kong push their lead out to 34-6 with a quarter to go.
Fly half Ben Rimene was on target in front of the sticks, booting four conversions and two penalties, while Riaan O’Niel scored Zimbabwe’s only try as Hong Kong again faded in the dying stages of the match.
“We lost the tempo that we had so its definitely a work on, we have got to keep that momentum going,” Hewson said.
“If we put a couple of balls down, we lose momentum, turn the ball over and give them opportunities.”
In the early game, Russia brushed aside Papua New Guinea 49-19 to keep their unbeaten record in tact.