Korea v Malaysia 55 – 10 in Asia Rugby Men’s Championship 2022 Semi
Determined, gifted, skilful, well-drilled, disciplined and relentless, hosts Korea wore down and eventually overwhelmed a valiant, resilient and talented Malaysia 55 – 10 in the Asia Rugby Men’s Championship semi-final in Incheon, Korea on 4th June 2022.
The colourful crowd at the Namdong Asiad Rugby Stadium, and rugby enthusiasts across the world watching the live stream, were treated by both teams to a real exhibition of high-class rugby.
It was, arguably, more competitive a match and less of a one-sided blowout than the scoreline appears to scream; by the concluding whistle, Malaysia had surely been overwhelmed but certainly not outclassed.
Crucially in this regard, despite not being challenged on the scoreboard at any point in the match—having established the lead in the fifth minute, and never relinquishing only growing it at regular intervals—Korea did not dominate Malaysia either territorially or in terms of possession: play changed hands equally and swung from the Korean to the Malaysian halves just as regularly right down to the final minute.
The significantly heavier Korean pack certainly began to assert itself more and more as the game proceeded. By the second half, the Malaysian scrum did look substantially worn out: it was being bulldozed, driven backwards at rapid rates, even on its own put in. Nevertheless, the Malaysian forwards held their own in both lineouts and open play; they rucked solidly, their front row, locks, flankers and Number 8 in particular, Saukuru Etonia, crashed effectively and made plenty of advances right through to the death.
Both teams’ backlines were well served by excellent scrum halves, Malaysia’s Muktee Badrul and Korea’s Lee Jeon had outstanding games, both teams moved the ball across the field well, executed set plays efficiently, and ran with purpose, gaining much ground for their respective teams. The Malaysian backs were, however, guilty of committing more unforced ball-handling errors than their counterparts (both teams were also guilty of some silly chip-kicking; whereas both teams’ positional kicking was predominantly on point).
Moreover, the Korean backline proved more explosive through the centre and appeared to have considerably more speed on the wings, and were hence particularly deadly in counter-attacking.
And so, Korea overwhelmed Malaysia immensely where it matters most: they treated spectators to a host of electrifying tries. Outside centre Kim Hyon Soo, winger Jeong Yeonsik and full-back Chang Yonghueng scored tries in the first half, with fly-half Kim Kimin missing only one of the three conversions. Malaysia had managed to respond to the first try with a penalty conversion by Mat Zizi Azwan Zuwairi early in the game.
In the second half, the floodgates pretty much opened for Korea: inside centre Kim Gwongmin added another two tries, while Lock Shin Dahyeon (who got a reprieve with this one; just one play earlier he had completed a brilliant a winger-like burst down the left flank only to bounce instead of touching the ball down in the try zone), scrum-half Chae Minseong and flanker Choi Seongdeok each scored one. Four of the five tries were converted, one by fly-half Kim Kimin and four by full-back Oh Jimyeong.
Meanwhile, Malaysia saw one near-sure try-scoring opportunity go begging in the second half courtesy the brilliant defending skills of Korean outside centre Kim Gwongmin. An excellent break, a gain of twenty or so meters, and deft off-load by scrum-half Muktee Badrul set up full-back Faris Pead, who took it into the end-zone only for Gwongmin’s tackle to enforce a ‘held-up’ call.
In the last minute, as if to underscore the remarkable Malaysian never-say-die flair they brought to the encounter, Number 8 Etonia Saukuru hoodwinked the Korean defence with a try from a well-worked lineout move, which full-back Faris Pead Azwan Zuwairi punctuated by converting – a difficult kick from way out wide after the final whistle had blown.
Korea will host Hong Kong on the 9th of July. The winner of that match, the Asia Rugby Men’s Champion, will face Tonga in the Sunshine Coast, Queensland Australia and the winner of the match to secure qualification at Rugby’s biggest event next year in Pool B where they will face Scotland, Ireland and South Africa, with one other side to join from Europe.
The loser joins the final qualification event scheduled to take place in November 2022 and will feature four teams playing in a round-robin format with the winner qualifying for Rugby World Cup.
“This is a big step for Korean rugby historically,” commented Korea’s Captain Kim Gwongmin, “a lot of difficulties (Challenges ) ahead but with everything put together, with a good team and good instruction, we believe we can beat Hong Kong and then successfully beat Tonga to reach the World Cup.”
Related Article: KOREA v MALAYSIA – NAMDONG ASIAD RUGBY STADIUM, INCHEON