Hong Kong maintained its perfect start to the Asia Rugby Championship 2019 with a clinical 71-0 whitewash of Malaysia tonight in Kuala Lumpur.
After a positive performance last week, Malaysia’s turtling tactics at home were a surprise, but seemingly from the outset the hosts planned to frustrate and upset Hong Kong. That plan failed to pay off, as Hong Kong led 33-0 after the opening half, securing a bonus point for scoring four or more tries with minutes left in the opening stanza – despite the Malaysians’ negative approached, as evidenced by a penalty count of over 20 on the night.
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Hong Kong managed to add lineout dominance to its scrum superiority from last week, frustrating the Malaysian attack on multiple levels. While difficult to conceive, Hong Kong managed to amass even more possession this week than last against Malaysia, finally converting it into points tonight with a 10-try haul.
Hong Kong made its intent clear from the kick-off, forcing the Malaysians into an early mistake that put Hong Kong on their try-line from the outset.
Malaysia held its line defence across the first engagements, but eventually conceded one too many professional fouls with the referee awarding a penalty try in just the 6th minute, handing Hong Kong a 7-0 advantage.
In the 12th minute, Malaysia’s cynical play was again penalised with a sin bin, putting them under further pressure. Given all of Hong Kong’s early possession, the scoreboard was frustratingly similar to that from last week at Hong Kong Football Club, where the hosts could not convert opportunities into points.
But tonight a more seasoned Hong Kong selection maintained its discipline and composure and the relentless pressure forced the floodgates open with Hong Kong scoring three more tries before the half was out.
Wing Harry Sayers pushed Hong Kong’s lead to 14-0 after scoring untouched from an attacking scrum in the 19th minute. Five minutes later, captain Liam Slatem added a good line break to get behind the Malaysian defence and produced a well-timed outlet pass to the onrushing Tyler Spitz with the pugnacious centre flashing the final 35 metres for another try. Matt Rosslee’s conversion was wide but Hong Kong had extended its lead to 19-0.
Paul Altier converted another attacking opportunity seconds later, benefiting from a line break sparked by fly half Jack Neville, for the bonus point try as Hong Kong pushed its lead to 33-0 with 40 minutes of action left.
The second half proved more of the same as Hong Kong exorcised its frustrations from a fortnight ago, with seven tries down the stretch.
Slatem started the action with a typical sniping try after the forwards continued to plague the Malaysian lineout in the second half, stealing their third throw-in of the game on the Malaysian line with Slatem darting in to touch the bouncing ball down over the line.
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A nice solo effort from Altier saw the current Hong Kong U20 captain, playing alongside his co-captain Sam Tsoi tonight, convert a 60-metre break for his brace, before No.8 Kane Boucaut burrowed over for his first try moments later as Hong Kong pushed its lead to 52-nil.
Sayers, another player capped for the first time in this year’s Asia Rugby Championship, collected his brace in the 67th minute finishing off a broken attacking play as the Malaysian defence capitulated down the stretch. Jack Neville and Lewis Warner added tries in the final quarter with Matt Rosslee converting seven of nine on the day to give Hong Kong the 71-0 win.
Slatem credited the win to a more experienced selection this weekend and a more professional outlook saying, “Last week, we played a young side and Malaysia really brought it, which was great for the young guys to get that experience and Malaysia really brought it. This week we really worked hard in our preparation and I think that experience in the squad and that little bit more professionalism got us over the line.
“Now we need to reset, get our recovery on point and do our homework on Korea and hopefully get a result next Saturday,” said the captain.
Hong Kong now climbs to the top of the table with a perfect 15 points from three games, five up on second placed South Korea, who will need a bonus point win in Hong Kong next Saturday at Hong Kong Football Club (1600 kick-off) to claim the Asia Rugby Championship title outright.
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