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Jack Neville of Hong Kong and Bryceson Adaka of Kenya chase down a loose ball during the RWC 2023 Final Qualification Tournament match at The Sevens Stadium on November 18, 2022 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photo: World Rugby via Getty Images

Hong Kong’s Rugby World Cup journey ends with nail-biting win, and rousing rendition of national anthem

  • Lewis Evans’ side finish final qualifying tournament on a high, with a thrilling 22-18 victory over Kenya on Friday night
  • There was no mistake with Chinese national anthem in Dubai, with Hong Kong singing it loudly and proudly before kick-off

Hong Kong ended their Rugby World Cup final qualifying tournament on a high, with a nail-biting 22-18 win over Kenya in Dubai on Friday night.

Tries from Luke van der Smit and Sean Taylor, plus the reliable kicking of Gregor McNeish had kept Hong Kong in the hunt at 18-17 down despite an error-strewn performance, which included three yellow cards, for Matt Worley, Nathan De Thierry and Bryn Phillips.

Still, it needed a Jak Lam try on his debut to finally put some breathing space between the two teams, and despite some desperate defence at the end in the face of one last Kenyan attack, Hong Kong held on.

It all came on the back of a belting pregame rendition of the Chinese national anthem, following the furore caused by last weekend’s protest song blunder at the Asia Rugby Sevens Series in South Korea.

The performance in the first half was easily Hong Kong’s worst of the year, and not a player was immune to the sloppy errors that handed Kenya momentum and possession on a regular basis.

Missed tackles, knock-ons, poor decisions at the breakdown and lineout, the only surprise was that Lewis Evans’ side put enough phases to score a try.

Kenya weren’t exactly flawless, but they committed fewer errors, were better at the breakdown and took advantage of the opportunities when Hong Kong handed them over.

John Okoth of Kenya breaks clear to score his team’s first try of the game. Photo: World Rugby via Getty Images

Centre John Okoth was the first to benefit from the opposition’s generosity, bursting through a gap in the defensive line from 10 metres out to score the first of his side’s two tries.

The lead should have been greater, but Geoffrey Ominde, who missed a very kickable penalty in the first minute fluffed his lines again from an even better position than before.

Hong Kong were down to 14 men at that point, with Matt Worley spending 10 minutes in the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on, but he redeemed himself by making the break that eventually led to van der Smit barrelling over from close range.

Samuel Asati of Kenya is tackled by Sean Taylor (left). Photo: World Rugby via Getty Images

Unfortunately the mistakes persisted and Kenya eased ahead, first through a Brian Tanga try, and then Ominde, who finally found his kicking boots, and slotted over a conversion and two penalties to put his side 18-7 up at the break.

The introduction of James Cunningham for the misfiring Van der Smit added some discipline to the forwards, and clear thinking at the breakdown after the break.

A Gregor McNeish penalty soon after the restart reduced the deficit, and then Taylor produced a moment of magic to touch the ball down in the corner to cut the gap to one point.