Hong Kong lost a tense encounter against Germany, 26-9, last night in Marseille, France in the opening match of the RWC2019 Repechage
The final result flattered the Germans somewhat, with the score tied 9-9 after 60 minutes, before a yellow card dished out to flanker Kane Boucaut created the space for Germany to pull away with two tries in the final quarter.
“We’re really disappointed,” said captain James Cunningham after the match.
“We played some really good rugby, but we didn’t complete things. We had a couple of knock-ons and gave away too many penalties, and that was all that Germany needed. When push came to shove we didn’t do what we needed to do.
“But I’m proud of the effort from the boys. There is a lot that we can build on from today and we just have to work hard in the next two games and see what happens in the other results. In terms of our effort, I think we’ve done Hong Kong proud,” added Cunningham.
To call the first half a kicking duel would belie the high tempo and significant patches of ball in play, but nonetheless the score was tied six-all at the break after two penalties apiece.
Fly-half Matt Rosslee notched both of his attempts in the first stanza, while German fly-half Raynor Parkinson and fullback Chris Hilsenbeck each added a penalty, as Germany came back to level the scores 6-6 shortly before the break.
A furious start by the Germans had Hong Kong under pressure from the kick-off as a large but mobile pack barreled down to Hong Kong’s try-line in the opening minute, setting up 15 phases of attack.
But Hong Kong were composed and disciplined in defence, as they were throughout the afternoon, and wore the early pressure well. It was a magnificent defensive effort by Hong Kong throughout the game, as they held tough against a physically imposing German pack for 70 minutes until Boucaut’s sin-binning created the first daylight for Germany.
While neither side were effective in breaking down the other’s defence, one player was – winger Salom Yiu, who showed his pace and sense for the ball with four lightning breakaways in the first half. Unfortunately, Yiu failed to get past the last defender on each of those occasions and Hong Kong was left try-less on the day.
On balance, Hong Kong looked the more dangerous outfit, with Casey Stone showing glimpses of his attacking form coming in, but Germany’s workmanlike defence and a savvy strategy of playing behind a burly pack and several big-booted backs, whose long-range kicking kept Hong Kong pinned down for most of the day.
The Germans did show a worrisome advantage in the tight work in the first half, giving the Hong Kong scrum fits on occasion and mounting some threatening rolling mauls from their line-out. That advantage would grow in the second half as Germany finished the stronger side.
Hong Kong frequently strayed on the wrong side of referee Pascale Gauzere, who handed out twice as many penalties to the Asian qualifier (12) as against the Germans. Gauzere was particularly watchful of Hong Kong’s loose forward trio, handing out repeated penalties for failing to roll away or release the ball in the tackle.
Playing ten-man rugby, Germany took their first lead in the 50th minute with Parkinson slotting his second penalty to push out 9-6. Hong Kong responded magnificently, attacking from the re-start to pressure the German line and force a penalty of their own, which Rosslee converted to tie the score at 9-all two minutes later.
In what was a day-long arm wrestle, Germany refused to quit and worked their way back into Hong Kong territory to set up another attacking maul off of a line-out. Boucaut got caught underneath and was penalized for collapsing, forcing Gauzere into his pocket for the yellow in the 61st minute.
From then on, it was rear-guard action for Hong Kong as the Germans fed off of their numerical advantage and the number of reserves coming off Hong Kong’s bench into pressure situations. Germany broke Hong Kong’s back in the 70th minute when hooker George Haupt slipped through the defensive line for a long breakaway try.
Hong Kong returned to full strength with eight minutes remaining and trailing by 10 points, 9-19, but Germany managed to hold possession and slow matters down, starving Hong Kong’s playmakers of any chance for a late charge.
The efficient German defence then ruthlessly snuffed out a late counter-attack from Conor Hartley deep in Hong Kong’s half to mount another attack that resulted in their second try in the 77th minute. Parkinson’s conversion was true and Germany had a crucial first win in the Repechage, 26-19.
Hong Kong will face Kenya, who lost to Canada yesterday, 65-19, next in the competition.
“The boys are bitterly disappointed, but there is a lot of positives to take from this,” said Dai Rees, Chief Rugby Operations Officer at the HKRU.
“We played all of the rugby and created more chances, we just couldn’t finish them and at this level we have to finish
“We are hurting but we are not out of it. We need to address the things we need to from today and get on with preparing to get the result we need against Kenya. We have been in this position before in tournaments, we know we can come back from this,” Rees added.
Hong Kong squad v Germany
RWC 2019 Repechage, Marseille, 11 November
- Dan BARLOW, 2. Dayne JANS, 3. Grant KEMP, 4. James CUNNINGHAM ©, 5. Jack DELAFORCE, 6. Mike PARFITT, 7. Mike COVERDALE, 8. Thomas LAMBOLEY, 9. Liam SLATEM, 10. Matt ROSSLEE, 11. YIU Kam-Shing, Salom 12. Max WOODWARD, 13. Tyler SPITZ, 14. Conor HARTLEY, 15. Casey STONE. 16. Ben ROBERTS, 17. Jack PARFITT, 18. Ben HIGGINS, 19. Finn FIELD, 20. Kane BOUCAUT, 21. Bryn PHILLIPS, 22. Jamie HOOD, 23. Lewis WARNER