Rugby World Cup final qualifying: USA too strong for Hong Kong, set up decider against Portugal for last Paris spot
- Portugal put Kenya to the sword, running in 13 tries in 85-0 demolition in early game
- USA forward power too much for Hong Kong, who go down 49-7 in bruising encounter
The USA Eagles and Portugal will battle it out for the final spot at next year’s Rugby World Cup after both grabbed convincing victories in the final qualifying tournament in Dubai on Saturday.
Portugal put Kenya to the sword in a 85-0 victory, while the USA beat Hong Kong 49-7 in a bruising encounter in the evening’s second game at The Sevens Stadium.
A brace from wing Nate Augspurger, and further scores from Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz, Kapeli Pifeleti, Cam Dolan, Mitch Wilson and Moni Tonga’uiha, plus 12 points from the boot of the flawless AJ MacGinty, powered the Eagles to victory.
Hong Kong’s lone score came from Matt Worley, who sliced through the US defence in the second half to put some gloss on the performance, and Nik Cumming scored his first points on his debut with the conversion.
The game as a contest had been over for a while before Worley’s try in the 66th minute, but the points gave his side a third or fourth wind and the closing moments were some of the best of the game from Hong Kong’s point of view.
Still, the US had the final say through replacement Tonga’uiha three minutes from time, and the No 8s barrelling run from close in brought the victory full circle, after the man he came in for, Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz, scored in similar fashion after 13 minutes.
Hong Kong actually had the chance to get on the board first, but fly half Gregor McNeish pushed an early shot at goal wide, after Viliami Helu was penalised for going off his feet at the ruck.
That though was as close as Hong Kong came to threatening to score in the first half, and it was one-way traffic from there on.
The predicted forwards battle did materialise, and while the USA’s greater power upfront was too much for Hong Kong to keep at bay, Gary Gold’s side will know they have been in a battle.
But once Fa’anana-Schultz had shown the way, the tries flowed at regular intervals from then on, and with Hong Kong’s normally reliable line-out misfiring, and the scrum struggling to match the sheer weight of the opposition, any chances to relieve the pressure were lost.
Hooker Kapeli Pifeleti Jnr grabbed his side’s second as they drove over from a line-out, and the dominance was emphasised by Augsperger first, which was the result of some slick handling by the backs.
Cam Dolan, whose performance earned him the man of the match award, burrowed over from close range to secure the try-scoring bonus point for his side before half-time. And MacGinty’s fourth conversion gave the Eagles a 28-0 lead at the break.
It took the US nearly seven minutes of constant pressure after the restart to add a fifth try, with MacGinty’s reverse pass sending Wilson clear, before Augsperger nabbed his second and Tonga’uiha put the exclamation point on an emphatic performance.
In the day’s first game, it took Portugal less than a minute to score the first of their 13 tries, and they scored five before half-time, with Samuel Marques’ 100 per cent conversion rate putting them 35-0 up.
Already up against it, Kenya were reduce to 14 men after second-row Brian Juma was shown a second yellow card and sent off, and from there is was just a case of how many Portugal would score.