28 Aug 2016

Hong Kong lost to Kenya yesterday in Nairobi, 34-10. It was a skittish performance for Hong Kong - perhaps understandably, considering 22 premier players were left at home with an eye on the Asian Sevens Series, while six new caps were blooded in the test.

Accuracy issues plagued Hong Kong as unforced errors left them starving for possession until the final quarter, while the Kenyans feasted on the bonus ball throughout the afternoon.

“Today’s match was not dissimilar to Tuesday’s loss [28-14 to Kenya A]. We looked like a side that haven’t played together and we struggled to put any constructive phases together. They scored 3 or 4 tries purely as a result of us turning the ball over. At this level you get punished for those errors and that was the case,” said coach Leigh Jones.

“It is just getting guys used to playing under this type of pressure. At the moment, the step up is too much for some of them, which forces a large number of errors. But the only answer is to expose them to this level of rugby more often.”

The game was effectively over by half time as the visitors conceded two tries and two penalties in the opening forty minutes to hand Kenya an unassailable 20-3 lead at the break. Hong Kong’s only reply came from a late penalty by Matt Rosslee after the centre’s committed chase of fly-half Liam Owen’s booming up-and-under from the Kenyan 22-metre line put the defence under pressure.

Rosslee and Owens marked their international debuts today with four other newly capped players joining the fray from the bench in the second half.

Kenya added two more tries after play resumed to put the game further out of reach. Winger Darwin Mukidzu was a one-man wrecking crew as he paced his side with a perfect six goals from six attempts (two penalties and four conversions), while setting up Kenya’s third try before claiming the fourth.

Coach Leigh Jones was left disappointed with the results but pleased with the tour in and of itself.

“On a positive note it has been great to expose some new players to this level. They will have learned some painful lessons from it but we will have to go through a bit of pain to improve,” Jones added.

The scrum was once again a bright spot for the visitors, with Hong Kong’s eight putting their opponents under real pressure, including in the second half, when hooker Alexander Post, lock Mike Parfitt and flanker Joey Cheung Ho-yin all came on to earn their first caps.

The forwards were unable to match that performance in the lineout however, damaging their hopes of playing a structured possession game and slowing down their opponents.

Hugo Stiles made it on late in the match as Jones ensured all of Hong Kong’s potential debutants saw the pitch, fulfilling a key objective of the tour to expose players to international competition.

The new caps accounted for all of Hong Kong’s points when Stiles crossed for his first test try late in the match. Hong Kong took full advantage of a yellow card against Kenya in the 60th minute to camp out on the Kenyan five-metre line.

Hong Kong shifted the attack to the opposite field through a succession of rucks before the ball came out in space to Liam Owens who nearly crossed in the corner. Showing good awareness, Owens popped the ball up to his long-time U20s backline partner Stiles, who did well to cross the line despite the attentions of the Kenyan defence. Rosslee added a nice conversion from the touchline to bring the final score to 34-10 to Kenya.

The result will likely see the two sides swap places in the World Rugby rankings after Hong Kong entered the test ranked 22nd trailed by Kenya at 24.

Despite the loss, the tour Jones deemed the tour an unmitigated success: “I’m not pleased with the results but we will grow from it. We shouldn’t forget that it is pre-season for us and we were coming up against a very settled squad that has been in competition for three or four months now.

“We have a new group and we can only get better. I was especially pleased with the way we dug in and pulled together to make a respectable showing in the second half and get over the try-line.

“Now it’s about continuing to work on improving our accuracy under pressure and ensuring that we have sufficient occasions where we can expose the players to this level of rugby,” Jones concluded.

Hong Kong SAR XV v KENYA: 1. Ben HIGGINS, 2. Jamie TSANG, 3. Jack PARFITT, 4. Adrian GRIFFITHS, 5. Fin FIELD, 6. Nick HEWSON (Captain), 7. Mathew LAMMING, 8. Dan FALVEY, 9. Adam ROLSTON, 10. Liam OWENS*, 11. Charles HIGSON-SMITH, 12. Tyler SPITZ, 13. Matt ROSSLEE*, 14. Jamie ROBINSON, 15. Ed ROLSTON. Reserves: 16. Alex POST*, 17. Alex NG Wai-shing, 18 Adam FULLGRABE, 19. Mike PARFITT*, 20. Tony WONG, 21. Joey CHEUNG Ho-yin*, 22. Charles Cheung Ho-ning, 23. Hugo STILES*.

*First Hong Kong cap