Hong Kong through to the World Cup repechage
HONG KONG served notice that there could be a second Asian team at the World Cup Finals by crushing the Cook Islands 51-0 in the second leg of their qualifying play-off at the Hong Kong Football club yesterday.
Having won the first leg 26-3 in the Cook Islands less than a week ago, the Dragons made light of a tricky travelling schedule – 36 hours of flying across multiple time zones given they crossed the international dateline twice – to complete the two matches and finish the job.
They now take their place in November’s inaugural round robbin repechage in France with an impressive six try display.
Wings Yu Kam Shing and Jamie Hood scored tries, as did centre Max Woodward while dynamic replacement hooker Alexander Post scored twice and there was a second half penalty try as the Hong Kong forwards took over after the break.
Even more pleasing for Hong Kong and their Welsh coach Leigh Jones, who was Japan’s defence coach under Eddie Jones, was how his side worked hard to avoid conceding a trying in either game.
The Cook Islands on paper were fielding their strongest side in recent history having gathered their best players from club rugby in New Zealand Australia and being skippered by Sam Anderson-Heather who captained the New Zealand Barbarians against the Lions last year.
Over the two matches, though, they were outclassed by a well drilled Hong Kong team.
“We were outstanding on the day,” said Hong Kong captain and lock Jamie Cunningham.
“It’s been a massive two weeks but we did what we had to do. Even this morning we knew the job wasn’t done, they are a big physical team and need containing at all time.
“We prepared like any other game, took our points, built our lead and now we are heading to France.
“Trying to get to Japan is an unbelievable challenge but I believe we have got what it takes to get there and hopefully the Hong Kong community will get right behind us because we have got a team here to make them proud.
“We are still developing and there is some great young talent coming through and a few players who are about to qualify. We have a game against Western Force in August which will play a big part in our preparation for France before our domestic championship starts again.”
As well as Hong Kong, Canada and Germany are already confirmed for the repechage while the runners up of the African Gold Cup – probably Kenya – will complete the line-up.
Up to this point the perceived wisdom has been that Canada would win comfortably, but Hong Kong’s excellent form and their potential to prepare properl – the Union enjoys many more financial resources than most T2 countries – could yet see them mount a serious challenge.
In Africa the Gold Cup continued apace with Kenya reeling off their third consecutive win to beat Uganda 38-22 with replacement prop Amusala Moses putting the seal on victory when he stormed over from close range for an injury time try.
For much of an evenly contested game the Ugan- dan backs gave Kenya plenty to think about it but the win confirms the Kenyans as the side most likely to contest the Championship with Namibia who had a fallow week this time round.
Meanwhile in Tunisia, after a fractious week of accusations and counter accusations over accommodation, Tunisa pulled off one of the most famous wins in their history with an 18-14 victory over a disappointing Zimbabwe side.
Victory represents a massive turnaround in fortunes for Tunisia who lost their last game 118-0 against Namibia in Windhoek two weeks ago.
Now for France: Hong Kong players celebrate