Hong Kong V Kenya 2nd Test | Hong Kong beat Kenya 43-34 in the second of a two-test series at the RFUEA Ground in Nairobi. It was a determined performance for the visitors, who had also led last week in the opening test, before letting Kenya come back to steal a 19-all draw.
Ahead of the second test, Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones had warned that his side would be better for having a first game of the season under their belts and acclimating to local conditions – and they were.
Hong Kong scored four tries on a very fast track in Nairobi. Kyle Sullivan claimed the first late in the opening half after a jinking run and clever offload from scrumhalf Liam Slatem put the onrushing lock into space.
Sullivan’s try ended an early kicking duel between fly half Matt Rosslee and Kenyan winger Darwin Mukidza that had brought the scoring to 9-6 in Hong Kong’s favour after the opening quarter.
Rosslee, who made his Hong Kong debut at the same ground a year ago, was flawless on the afternoon, scoring 23 points from five penalties and four conversions. His conversion of Sullivan’s try brought the half-time score to 16-6 as Hong Kong quieted the local supporters early on.
Hong Kong kept on the pressure with a strong start to the second half as Rosslee was again on target with his fourth penalty in the 45th minute pushing Hong Kong ahead 19-6.
The forwards put in a powerful display in the second half, stealing several Kenyan scrums against the head. Fittingly then, it was front-rowers who scored all of Hong Kong’s tries this afternoon. Reserve hooker Dayne Jans scored his first try for Hong Kong on his second test, crashing over from a quick tap-and-run on the Kenyan try-line to push Hong Kong’s edge to 26-6 after Rosslee’s conversion.
Hong Kong’s forwards weren’t finished yet, as they followed that effort with another aggressive attack that brought the pack deep into the corner and allowed Alex Ng Wai-shing, Hong Kong’s most capped player post-1997, to crash over from in close and push the lead to 33-6 after the conversion.
Kenya showed why they are one of the most dangerous opponents in all of world rugby as they came storming back to score two tries in three minutes, each a masterwork of individual flair and pace.
The glut of tries brought Kenya back into the game at 33-20 down with 20 minutes on the clock. Kenyan confidence quickly grew as the hometown supporters ratcheted up the noise. It was Rosslee once again who halted the momentum and hushed the ground after coolly slotting his fifth penalty from near halfway, increasing Hong Kong’s margin to 36-20.
The last quarter was played at frenetic pace as the Kenyans threw everything into the attack and the match seesawed between ends.
In the 71st minute, Kenya scored a third try to keep in touching distance at 36-27 down after the conversion.
Hong Kong’s pack wrested the game back with another influential effort as they outmuscled their opponents driving their way deep into enemy territory. This time it was flanker Matt Lamming emerging from the bottom of the pile with the try.
Rosslee’s conversion pushed Hong Kong’s lead to 43-27 but Kenya weren’t finished yet either, adding a tap and go try off of a penalty near Hong Kong’s posts. But Hong Kong held off the Kenyan assault over the dying minutes of the match to secure the 43-34 win.
“We’re massively pleased,” said hooker Jamie Tsang after the match.
“We set our stall out at the start of the week to control the pace of the game and we did that. Our reserves had a real impact on the game, particularly in the forwards. We may have gotten a bit too comfortable in the second half and you can’t do that against a team like Kenya, who can score from anywhere as they showed today. But we showed real character to hold them off.
“This performance really shows that the ERP [HKRU Elite Rugby Programme] is working and that Hong Kong has depth. We left some key players back home due to injury and the sevens team being in, Germany so even with a lot of new faces in the squad we have beaten a very good side.
“Hopefully we can keep that momentum going forward over the next 14 months,” added Tsang.
Hong Kong blooded nine new caps on the tour with James Christie and Evi Saua both earning first caps in the victory.