Hong Kong China Men Clinch 4th Straight Asia Rugby Men’s Championship
Hong Kong China Men beat South Korea 30-10 at HKFC on Saturday night 17th June 2023 to clinch the Asia Rugby Men’s Championship, a fourth straight title but the first in a few years at home in front of a good turnout.
All day, the rain had torrentially been pouring down across Hong Kong, but pre-kick-off, the skies cleared and allowed for an enticing contest between undoubtedly the top two men’s Asian XV teams aside from Japan.
Hong Kong China started the match with the kick-off and added the first points early on following a successful penalty and never really looked like losing their grip on the ARMC, even though were some nervy moments during the match.
Hooker Alex Post scored a hat trick – all off the base of dominant rolling mauls – to add to the brace he scored against Malaysia last week and equalled Seb Brien’s tally of five tries this championship.
The burly hooker said after the win, “The forwards do the hard work upfront and I’m just the lucky one to sit in the back of those mauls, but yeah, it was a great shift from the forwards today.” He added with a grin, “The only thing I have to do is fight off the nine as Bryn Phillips is always trying to nick one off me.”
Captain Tom Hill was the other try scorer late in the first half and there was a penalty try awarded after sub, Will Panday, had charged down a Korean clearance with his first touch of the ball after coming on but South Korean fullback Jeong Yeonsik hit the ball out of play and had shoved Panday.
The home team had a small contingent of overseas-based players with them for the championship but there was precious little time to prepare and Post praised the effort from the players and coaches.
Of the challenge South Korea posed, which as expected was a sterner test than what Malaysia offered, he added; “They did exactly what we knew they would, which was be physical and we knew they would give everything until the last minute. I mean, that was a great score from them near the end.”
Although Hong Kong China were the favourites at home, the visitors did create opportunities throughout the match and had several line breaks thwarted by silly mistakes or great cover defence.
The South Koreans have a young team with six debutants in the squad and tested the HK China forwards in the scrums and lineouts, often it was flyhalf Gregor McNeish whose powerful boot got the home side out of trouble with excellent clearance kicks. Last week his kicking for points was excellent but he didn’t quite match the accuracy this week, twice striking the crossbar.
Lewis Evans, the Hong Kong China Head Coach, was pleased with the way the team handled the match. “I’m glad every time that we really got tested, in the scrum, lineouts and defensively, we stood up. It wasn’t perfect and I think we knew that the set piece was going to be so important today but we talked about the finishers making an impact and I thought all of these guys were outstanding.” He praised the South Koreans for the performance with several young players showing their exuberance and the pack fronting up to Hong Kong China – the scoreline at the break was only 13-3 to Hong Kong China.
The home side had to endure another ten-minute spell with a player in the sin-bin, as Patrick Jenkinson was yellow-carded in the second half but the side did not concede points in his absence.
The Hong Kong China coach added: “I’d say one thing we’re good at is handling adversity. I think it’s been 18 months of tough times but when it gets really gritty, the boys really stand up.”
The South Korean coach Lee Myung Geun, himself an impressive player in his day, said that it was a tough game but his side don’t get the chance to play the likes of Hong Kong China in South Korea, so the experience for him, his coaches, and young team is important.
The TMO was used on multiple occasions during the match, mainly to rule out tries, and South Korea will be aggrieved by not being awarded one after their scrum generated its best scoring chance of the game in the first half which could have changed the momentum at the time. The fact that they were still very much in the game at 18-10 down with 15 minutes left should give them encouragement.
Ultimately Hong Kong China was too strong and they closed the game out with two vital scores and a powerful bench to claim silverware in front of a boisterous crowd at HKFC.
Evans said, “It was a fantastic result. We knew we had to win both games and to win and with that kind of superiority in the opener and to get a bonus point today, we couldn’t have asked for more than that.”
More International Rugby Is Needed By the Asian Teams
Evans added that they want more international test matches and play different opposition. “The guys need to play more international rugby, that’s the next thing, is to see what the plan is.”
Post also said that he feels as one of the older and more experienced players he was proud of the way the “young boys have come in have integrated really well and we’ve got a few other young lads that didn’t get their debuts. But there are some good guys who have been training with us all week and I expect some big things from them.”
On the prospect of more internationals, he is also adamant it’s needed “I want more test matches, and I want them against the best of the best. I mean, no disrespect to Malaysia, but you don’t learn anything from winning a game by the margin we did – you learn from playing tough opposition, whether you win, lose tight, or get pumped, you learn from playing the best.”
He added, “So I just hope that we can continue to progress, and like before COVID, we can start playing the likes of Spain, and Belgium. I just hope that I can continue in the coming years too”.
The South Koreans also now turn their attention to the Sevens game and the Asia Rugby Sevens Series and Asian Games but they also want to have more XVs rugby lined up and will hope to announce more by the end of the year.
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- Asian Rugby Championship Division 1 2023.