HONG KONG v CANADA, Canada is the 20th and final qualifier for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan after beating Hong Kong 27-10 in the final match of the repechage tournament in Marseille on Friday.
HONG KONG V CANADA 10-27
A try in each half by DTH van der Merwe helped Canada preserve their ever-present status on the Rugby World Cup stage with a hard-fought victory over a Hong Kong side who threw everything they had at their opponents in a bid to reach their first tournament.
Hong Kong knew the size of the task facing them, needing not only to beat Canada with a bonus point but also deny the Canucks a bonus point, and would have drawn confidence from the way they drove the North Americans back in the game’s first scrum near halfway.
Losing centre Tyler Spitz to what looked like a hamstring injury inside three minutes was a blow for Hong Kong, but they didn’t let it affect them, instead throwing everything at their more experienced opponents and taking up camp inside Canada’s 22 for much of the opening 12 minutes. With the rain still pouring down they twice turned down penalties in front of the posts for scrums and won several penalties, but Canada survived the early onslaught.
That galvanised Canada and they finally got their hands on the ball, ultimately working their veteran hooker Ray Barkwill over for the opening try under the posts in the 18th minute. Hong Kong thought they had hit back and got one of the tries they needed through scrum-half Liam Slatem six minutes later, but it was ruled out by the TMO for an earlier knock-on.
Instead, it was a penalty by Matt Rosslee, who was running hard at the Canadian defence with every opportunity, who scored Hong Kong’s first points just before the half-hour mark with a penalty.
Within two minutes, though, it was Rosslee’s clearance kick deep in his own 22 that was charged down by Canada’s record try scorer DTH van der Merwe, the winger reacting quickest to score his fourth try of the tournament after his first test hat-trick on day one against Kenya. Gordon McRorie added the conversion to make it 14-6 in Canada’s favour.
McRorie then saw his first-half finish 90 seconds early after being yellow-carded by referee Romain Poite for a deliberate knock-on in his own 22. Hong Kong, though, were again unable to find a way through the Canada defence who repelled several pick and goes before winning a penalty on their own line.
Hong Kong tried to make the most of their man advantage at the start of the second half with Slatem bursting through before being stopped short and then the ball was lost forward on the left wing, but they finally found a way through after McRorie returned, winger Conor Hartley dotting down in the right corner to the delight of their vocal fans.
McRorie then missed a relatively straightforward penalty attempt but rediscovered his kicking boots in the 61st and 67th minutes to convert his next two chances to give Canada more breathing space at 20-10. That lead grew to 17 points as the match entered the final eight minutes after Van der Merwe shrugged off four tackles to score his second try, McRorie curling in the conversion from the touchline.
Canada captain Phil Mack said: “We’re over the moon. Coming into this we knew it would be tough. We knew each game would be a different task. But all the support from home and the way the boys have dug in and got all the work done building up to this in the last year has been awesome. It was a super scrappy game but we are just so happy to come away with the win. We wanted to play straight away once the review from the last game was done, and get into this World Cup. Credit to the coaching staff, they came in when we were in a pretty bad spot but Kingsley (Jones) has upskilled us all and has put us in a position now where we are through to a World Cup. That goal is done but now the hard work really starts because we have got to go to a World Cup and perform. We’ll enjoy this moment but then we’ll have to hit the after-burners and work towards the World Cup.”
Hong Kong captain James Cunningham: “It was a bit frustrating for us. Once again, like against Germany, we had opportunities but we just couldn’t take them and Canada did.”