30 Jun 2019

Hong Kong have successfully defended their title as FWD Asia Rugby Champions after beating South Korea 64-3 at Hong Kong Football Club to sweep the tournament.  Hong Kong ran the table on Malaysia and Korea in a dominant performance that shows it has increased the gap on the rest of Asia, bar Rugby World Cup hosts Japan.

Hong Kong put it away early in a day of superb individual performances at Football Club, running out to a bonus point, and a 26-0 lead, after just 20 minutes.

The hosts were on the front foot from the kick-off, exerting enough pressure on the Korean defence to put fullback Jack Neville over for the game’s first try after 10 minutes. Wing Seb Brien and centre Ben Axten-Burrett added tries in the next ten minutes before Neville bagged a first half brace to push Hong Kong’s lead to 26-0.

Starved of both space and ball, South Korea could only muster a penalty in reply deep in the half. A red card for a dangerous tackle on Harry Sayers left Korea a man down for the remainder, creating space for a Tyler Spitz try late to bring the total to 31-3 at the break.

The second half was more of the same with Hong Kong entertaining the home crowd with four more tries.

Fly half Matt Rosslee started the scoring shortly after the re-start, tiptoeing down the line before breaking in behind the centre defence to push the score to 38-3 after he converted his own effort.

The forwards muscled in on the action with tries from Callum McCullough, who scored a brace in the second half, including a 60-metre solo effort that saw the big man swerving and dummying the defence beautifully.  

McCullough, one of the finds of the ARC campaign, was joined by another new cap on the score sheet in the second half when Fai Solomona crossed the whitewash, showing some superior conditioning to finish off another long-range Hong Kong try.

Ben Axten-Burrett served up that try and capped a fine individual performance with a battering try of his own moments later when the forwards demolished the understrength Korean pack on their line to produce another in a day-long series of fine attacking platforms. Axten-Burrett shoulder charged his way through two defenders for an emphatic finish.

McCullough’s loping effort, with hooker Alexander Post in eager support served as the prefect capping for a day when Hong Kong scored nine tries, running their last two match total to 20, to remain Asian champions.

Hong Kong’s bonus point win sees them finish on a perfect 20 of 20 possible points with South Korea on ten and Malaysia on one.

While it took Hong Kong a half-century to claim its first ever Asia Rugby title, a second convincing run against the region’s top contenders sets an exciting stage for the return of Japan to the competition in 2020.