09 Sep 2018

The Hong Kong Men’s U20s national team lost 78-17 to Uruguay this afternoon in the fifth-place play-off match of the World Rugby U20 Trophy in Bucharest, Romania. While not the result hoped for in the final round, the sixth placed overall finish is the high water mark for Hong Kong at this level since their debut in 2014.

A disastrous start saw Uruguay ship 36 points in the first 20 minutes before Hong Kong could staunch the bleeding.  After stabilising matters, Hong Kong put up a brave defence across the final quarter of the half, holding Uruguay scoreless until the dying minutes when they charged over from an attacking line-out to bring the score to 43-0.

Hong Kong finished the half with its first prolonged attack of the game, but the Uruguayan defence did well to maintain shape, keeping Hong Kong at a safe distance until the half-time hooter sounded.

To their credit, Hong Kong kept working and were rewarded to start the second half with their first try when winger Shiven Dukhande finished off a move that started from a mid-field scrum on the Uruguay 22.

Senior players captain Mark Coebergh and fly half Paul Altier linked well on the move with Altier’s dummy to the centres freeing up Dukhande out on the wing. He turned on the jets across the final 22-metres to score in the corner.

Altier, who starred in the win over Romania earlier in the week, slotted a tough conversion from the touchline to put Hong Kong on the board, trailing 43-7.  Unfortunately, Uruguay replied with a try within minutes to push the score past the half-century mark at 50-7.

Hong Kong mounted a solid fight back and even managed to entertain at moments down the stretch, with the squad showing glimpses of what it was capable of when able to play at the desired tempo.  

Sam Down finished off a beautiful, 60-metre scoring effort - triggered by Coebergh and Altier’s work up field, before Down was sprung outside to cut the margin to 50-12.

Uruguay replied quickly once again, extending their lead out to 57-12, but Hong Kong proved tenacious, setting up their third try of the half moments later.

This time Hong Kong struck off of a broken play, with reserve forward Takamasa Hoshiyama doing well to keep the ball alive and send it out wide to Down who was again on hand for the finish.

Altier’s missed conversion ended Hong Kong’s scoring, while Uruguay added three more tries late to bring the final score to 78-17.

Hong Kong end the World Rugby U20 Trophy with a one win against three losses record, but managed some notable accomplishments, including their second ever victory at this tournament in the 56-33 win over hosts Romania.  That victory propelled Hong Kong to its highest ever finish at the U20 Trophy in sixth place overall.

The results are promising, when considering the side entered the tournament underdone with the U20s sevens squad engaged in the Asian series until a week prior to departure for a tournament that also clashed with the school calendar.

The presence of currently eligible U20s players in the senior Hong Kong Sevens squad that won the Asian Games gold medal for a first time ever last weekend is another harbinger of the success coming through at junior levels in the Hong Kong Rugby Union.