Hong Kong impress early but fade late in 19-19 draw with Kenya in first test
Leigh Jones’ side shoot out to 14-0 lead through tries to Jack Parfitt and Tyler Spitz but let hosts back into the game
A Hong Kong team featuring five debutants gave up a 14-0 lead to draw 19-19 with Kenya in the first of two tests in Nairobi.
Both sides blooded a number of new players but it was Hong Kong who were the more cohesive as they jumped out to a 14-0 lead after just 13 minutes.
Prop Jack Parfitt opened the scoring with a try in the seventh minute, which fly half Matt Rosslee converted, and centre Tyler Spitz also dotted down early on.
Kenya hit back after 19 minutes through a try to captain George Nyambua but lost centre Patrice Agunda to the sin-bin, however Hong Kong were unable to convert their advantage into points.
Neither side could shake the other for much of the match but, buoyed by a 5,000-strong crowd at the RFUEA Ground in Nairobi, the hosts took advantage of their opportunities out wide, putting winger Alex Olaba, making his international debut, over late in the first half.
Shortly after the break, Hong Kong widened their lead after scrum half Liam Slatem scored, pushing the score to 19-12 after Rosslee missed the conversion attempt.
Slatem showed good awareness when he pounced on a loose ball at the breakdown and raced 50 metres for the try.
After Slatem’s try, coach Leigh Jones turned to his bench, bringing on Alex Ng Wai-shing in place of try-scorer Parfitt. Ng marked his 50th cap, further extending his record number of caps for Hong Kong, post-1997.
The frenetic Kenyans broke through in the 63rd minute, with right winger Dennis Muhanji delighting the crowd to bring the hosts to within two points.
Despite a rough two-for-five outing with the boot, Andola slotted the one conversion that counted to level the scores with 18 minutes remaining.
Both sides threw everything they had into the final quarter but neither team was able to add to their total, ensuring the match ended in a draw.