[Hong Kong, May 20, 2011]: Hong Kong claimed second spot in the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five competition after crushing the United Arab Emirates 62-3 in the final round at a rain-swept Hong Kong Football Club.
While perennial champions Japan once again clinched the top spot, Hong Kong for the first time grabbed the runners-up position in the fourth year of this tournament and they did it in style with a 10-try romp past an overmatched UAE.
“It was an excellent performance from the guys,” said Hong Kong national coach Dai Rees. “We have always stressed what mattered was performing and today the guys shone. We didn’t sneak over the line, we finished second in commanding fashion.”
A powerful performance from the Hong Kong forwards led superbly by No.8 Pale Tauti and openside flanker Mark Goosen paved the way for today’s dominating performance.
The visitors opened the scoring first thanks to a penalty from flyhalf Jonothon Grady but it was all one-way traffic after that as Hong Kong dominated the set-pieces as well as the breakdown, enjoying a wealth of possession.
At the break, Hong Kong led 29-3 and didn’t let off the pressure, adding a further 33 unanswered points to register their biggest win in the history of this tournament.
Blindside flanker Nick Hewson and fullback Ross Armour led the try-stakes each scoring a brace, while Tauti, Goosen, tighthead prop Nigel Hobler, hooker Alex Harris, winger Alex McQueen and substitute winger Jamie Hood all feasted on the UAE defence.
“It is a really pleasing result. This is the first time that Hong Kong has finished second in this competition and I hope this is the start of a new era for Hong Kong rugby,” said skipper and outside centre Tom McColl who collected 10 points with the boot.
Hong Kong made light of the wet conditions with a heavy thunderstorm minutes before the game kicked off making for a slippery ball.
With the forwards asserting their dominance from the very first scrum, the home team took control to the appreciation of a sizeable crowd which included 40 past Hong Kong internationals who had been invited for the game.
“When it started raining before the game began, I thought it would be a close game. But to score ten tries is unbelievable. It is a fantastic result,” said the hard-running McColl.
McColl was matched in the backline by impressive winger McQueen while flyhalf Keith Robertson, despite having an off day with the boot – knocking over only one of four attempts – was his usual influential self in midfield.
But the day belonged to the Hong Kong forwards whose barnstorming display left their opponents floundering two steps behind the pace.
“It feels like a job half done,” said UAE’s departing coach Bruce Birtwistle. “While we have achieved our target of staying in the Top Five next year, our goal was to finish second, but Hong Kong came up with a very impressive display today.”
Birtwistle, who leaves for his native New Zealand after three years in the job, added: “I’m very surprised by the result. I thought it would be a lot closer.”
Hong Kong will now claim that they are the best ‘amateur’ side in Asia, but coach Rees wants more.
“We have to sustain this result. Finishing second in Asia probably means nothing at the end of the day if you look down the road to qualifying for the 2015 World Cup,” Rees said.
“What matters is that we keep improving as we have done over the last few years. Last year we finished third and now we are second. We have to continue to improve,” Rees added.
Hong Kong finished its HSBC A5N campaign with a 3 – 1 record and 17 points on the table. UAE finished on 8 points after one win, two losses and one draw in this year’s competition.
Completing a happy day for Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Women defeated Singapore in the curtain-raiser, 53 – 8, after leading at the half 22 - 5. Five tries were scored through centres Natasha Olson-Thorne (3) and Becky Underwood (2) with lock Samantha Scott adding a brace.
For more information please visit www.asian5nations.com.