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Rugby: Hong Kong fight back to beat Belgium in Christmas Series opener

Hong Kong centre Lee Jones (far right) scored a late try to secure a 28-17 win over Belgium at King’s Park on Tuesday evening. The two teams will play at Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday afternoon.

Hong Kong centre Lee Jones (far right) scored a late try to secure a 28-17 win over Belgium at King’s Park on Tuesday evening. The two teams will next play at Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday afternoon.

December 17, 2013: Hosts Hong Kong rallied from a 17-12 half-time deficit to beat Belgium 28-17 at King’s Park on Tuesday evening in the first of a two-test Christmas Series. The teams face off again at Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday afternoon.

 

A late try from bustling centre Lee Jones sealed the victory after Ben Rimene had knocked over three second-half penalties to put the hosts ahead for the first time. The replacement flyhalf also completed the conversion as a young Belgium team were held scoreless in the second half.

 

Hong Kong head coach Leigh Jones said: “This is a huge and courageous win. It was an all-round effort and a disciplined performance. An outstanding one.

 

“The plan was to try and stay in touch of them which we managed to do in the first half. Then we came out in the second half and scored the first crucial points with a penalty, which gave us the momentum. It was a squad effort.”

 

Nick Hewson celebrated a win in his first match as captain, while Hong Kong also blooded five new players in the 23-strong squad, with lock Paul Dwyer, scrumhalf Andrew McCulla and outside centre Jake Phelps starting.

 

In a scrappy first half, Belgium opened the scoring after the forwards forced a turnover from a Hong Kong scrum and scrumhalf Julien Berger ran 50 metres to touch down by the corner flag, evading a despairing cover tackle from Rowan Varty.

 

Hong Kong winger Rowan Varty on the run against Belgium.

Hong Kong winger Rowan Varty on the run against Belgium.

Although Belgium missed the conversion, the opening half was otherwise dominated by the boot, as Hong Kong flyhalf Chris McAdam and his Belgian counterpart Chris Brown each converted four penalties to leave the game finely poised at halftime, with the visitors 17-12 ahead.

 

Hong Kong drew first blood after the break when Rimene, on for McAdam, knocked over a penalty to draw within two points for the fifth time in the match. His next penalty put Hong Kong ahead for the first time and the hosts maintained the pressure to avenge last December’s 24-12 defeat in the final of the Emirates Airlines Cup of Nations in Dubai.

 

Belgium coach Richard McClintock praised Hong Kong’s second-half performance, but hoped his side would quickly bounce back from the defeat.

 

“It was a well deserved win for Hong Kong on the base of their whole game, but especially the second half,” McClintock said. “This loss is a good wake-up call as we are facing a very important championship next February and it may be a good thing for our young team.”

 

Belgium will play in the European qualifiers for the 2015 World Cup. Hong Kong are preparing for next year’s HSBC Asian Five Nations and World Cup Asian qualifiers, so Jones is keen for an impressive performance on Saturday.

 

“I’m pleased with the way this group of players has responded,” Jones said. “There is a lot of confidence in this squad, but we have to back this up with another good performance on Saturday.”

 

Source: HKRFU / ESA

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