19 Dec 2015

The Hong Kong U19s National Rugby team beat hosts Singapore 61-10 today in the Asia Rugby U19s championship. Hong Kong defended its U19 title for a second consecutive year with an unbeaten run at the regional decider this week. The victory secured Hong Kong’s place as Asia’s representative at next year’s World Rugby U20s Trophy in Zimbabwe.

Hong Kong capped a clinical campaign at the Asian championships with an impressive nine-try victory over the hosts in the third and final round. Singapore mounted a brave defence early on, holding Hong Kong to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, despite barely penetrating the visitors’ half in the opening exchanges.

The defensive effort proved tiring and ultimately unsustainable for Singapore and their forwards wilted under the pressure. The SAR pack repeatedly got the best of their encounters in the tight and loose play. Hong Kong’s opening try came from one such exchange, after the forwards stole a Singapore scrum against the head.

Scrumhalf James Christie quickly fed the ball out wide to centre Matt Worley, who evaded four defenders on his way to a 40-metre try. It was Worley’s fifth of the tournament in an MVP-worthy performance. Flyhalf Hugo Stiles converted from the corner after missing his only penalty attempt of the day earlier in the match. The miss was only Stiles’ second from 17 attempts to that point in the tournament. He finished seven for nine with the boot today and 23 of 26 for the tournament.

With the threshold broken Singapore allowed three tries in the last 12 minutes of the half, two coming from No. 8 Cris Calanza, giving Hong Kong a 28-3 buffer at the break.

The Hong Kong forwards were omnipresent in support throughout the week and Calanza’s brace was more example of their outstanding support play. Calanza’s second was an impressive team effort, capping a phase where Hong Kong strung together six passes before recycling the ball from a ruck on Singapore’s try line and swinging it through four more sets of hands to put Calanza over untouched.

Ron Siew also scored twice today, his first tallies of the tournament. His opening half try was a 20-metre crashing run that exemplified the burly centre’s dogged play in Singapore; his hammer-and-silk pairing with outside centre Matt Worley proved dangerous in every match and was the lynchpin to Hong Kong’s attack.

The late burst of scoring to close the half - including a fourth try that secured the bonus point before the break, indicated that the floodgates were if not opening, then certainly loosening for Hong Kong. In the second half, Hong Kong’s pack blew them off their hinges, destroying the Rugby Lions’ scrum in the first set piece after the restart. The pressure from the Hong Kong front row of Ben Schats, Thomas Gibb and Callum McFeat-Smith set the tone for a renewed second half assault.

Singapore’s resistance faded quickly allowing five tries in the second half. Three came in the first fifteen minutes as Siew completed his brace, Christie got on the board and flanker Pierce Mackinlay-West crossed over, putting Hong Kong ahead to 42-10. A fourth try from winger Mark Coebergh and MacKinlay-West’s second to close out the match completed the rout and return the Asia Rugby U19s silverware to the HKRU trophy case for another year.

Sri Lanka beat Chinese Taipei 47-12 this afternoon, to take second overall ahead of Taipei, with hosts and newly promoted Singapore bringing up the rear.

Hong Kong will now advance to the World Rugby U20 Trophy in Harare, Zimbabwe in April and May 2016. There they will face off against Samoa (relegated from the World Rugby U20 Championship), hosts Zimbabwe, Namibia, Spain, Uruguay and Fiji in the eight-team tournament. The winner of the North American qualifier is not yet determined.

Hong Kong Squad, Asia Rugby U19s Championship (Singapore, Dec 13 – 19, 2015)

CHEUNG Ho Yin (Kowloon), James CHRISTIE* (Uni. of Northumbria), Hugo CHUI, Ho Ching* (HKFC), Mark COEBERGH (HK Scottish), Michael EARLEY* (HKS), Ken ENCARNACION* (HKS), Thomas GIBB* (HKCC), Oisin HARBITZ (Valley), Jonathan HEALY (HKS), Alexander HORNE (HKFC), MAK Kwai Chung (Tin Shui Wai), John MARKLEY* (Valley), Pierce MACKINLAY-WEST (HKFC), Alessandro NARDONI* (HKS), Liam OWENS* (Valley / Uni. of Edinburgh), Cris PIERREPONT (HKFC), Austin ROBERTSHAW (HKS), Ben SCHATS* (USRC Tigers), Ron SIEW* (USRC Tigers), Callum McFEAT-SMITH* (HKFC), Hugo STILES* (Uni. of Bath / Valley), TANG Cheuk Hang* (Kowloon), Aidan TRENT (USRC Tigers), WONG Chun Hei (Tai Po Dragons), Matthew WORLEY* (Racing 92), Cris CALANZA.

* Played World Rugby Junior Trophy (April 2014) or 2014 Asia Rugby U19s Qualifier