07 Jul 2018

Hong Kong beat Cook Islands 51-0 today at Hong Kong Football Club to secure their place in the final four-team qualification tournament for Rugby World Cup 2019.  That tournament will take place in November in France.

While Hong Kong only needed to avoid a loss of more than 23 points to advance, coach Leigh Jones had predicted earlier in the week that more was in store from his charges, and they made his claim real with a six-try shutout of the Cook Islands at home.

Hong Kong led 17-0 at half time after opening tries from winger Salom Yiu Kam-shing and centre Max Woodward.  Fly half Matt Rosslee converted both tries and added a penalty of his own to give Hong Kong an unassailable lead after the first forty minutes.

Rosslee started the second half scoring with a penalty in the 46th minute to nudge the floodgates further ajar, with Jamie Hood and Alex Post adding tries in the final stanza.  Post notched a second-half brace in only his third test as he continues to stake his claim for a spot in what is a highly competitive front row.

A penalty try was levied against the Cook Islands to boot, while reserve fly half Ben Rimene added a drop goal to the proceedings to bring Hong Kong to 51-0.

It was the second straight win over Cook Islands in as many weeks – and the second occasion when Hong Kong held their opponent try-less.

Jones paid tribute to his players after the match, saying, “We didn’t know exactly what to expect from the Cook Islands. Having been through that arduous travel a week ago, I wasn’t sure how they would come through.

“But there was a prize at the end of today’s match. The boys last week were subdued after the win as they knew there was still another level of performance to reach and they reached it today.

“There was a lot of intrinsic motivation there and as a result the coaching staff had very little to do this week. The boys really ran themselves,” Jones added.

He credited Hong Kong’s defensive effort as a whole saying, “Our defence was superb. I can’t single anyone out, but as a whole, to keep two clean sheets, especially away in Cook Islands, was really difficult to do.”

Looking ahead to the final qualification campaign, Jones believes that his side has sent a message to the opposition this November.

“I think we sent a real strong message now. If you look at the Cook Islands, with so many players playing in top rugby competitions around the world, it is going to take a good side to beat us now.

“This series tells me that we can compete at Tier 2 level. Now we need to be able to do that week in and week out and that will be the focus going forward.”

After a well deserved rest coming off the Asian championships and the Cook Islands series this summer, most of the Hong Kong squad will have some down time ahead before rejoining their clubs for the Hong Kong Rugby Union Premiership campaign this autumn.

Players like Salom Yiu, Ben Rimene, Cado Lee, Max Woodward and Max Denmark will also be in contention to represent Hong Kong at the upcoming Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco later this month.  Hong Kong have qualified for every Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament since its inception in 1993.

“The players will return to their clubs and we will need another competitive Premiership league campaign to assist them in our preparations,” Jones said.  

“Our collective is always going to be stronger than any individual, and we are fortunate to be in a good place in Hong Kong with our national programme, our clubs and our community in lockstep to support the efforts to qualify and to prepare us for what lies ahead.”