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Rugby: Hong Kong heartened despite Chiefs defeat

Hong Kong flyhalf Chris McAdam eludes the Chiefs Development defence at Hong Kong Football Club.

Hong Kong flyhalf Chris McAdam eludes the Chiefs Development defence at Hong Kong Football Club.

April 11, 2015: Hong Kong coach Andrew Hall was heartened by his squad’s performance despite a 28-14 defeat to Chiefs Development team on Saturday after the visitors scored twice in the last three minutes at Hong Kong Football Club.

 

The practice match was the centrepiece of a series of activities marking the launch of a new three-year strategic development partnership between the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union and the Chiefs Super Rugby franchise.

 

Hall was missing the majority of the Hong Kong sevens players, who were rested after back-to-back tournaments in Hong Kong and Tokyo, but said his side impressed against the development squad of the 2012 and 2013 Super Rugby champions.

 

“I’m fairly pleased with the result,” Hall said. “We didn’t know what to expect from the opposition. They are young, but they are a professional outfit coming from a Super Rugby franchise and our boys fronted up. I’m disappointed we let in that last try, but there are a lot of positives to take from today.”

 

The hosts took an early lead when prop John Aikman crossed the line in the eighth minute, before flyhalf Chris McAdam added the conversion to make it 7-0.

 

Japanese forward Ryuta Yasui scored for the tourists in the 17th minute after he found space on the fringes of a ruck to dive over. Captain Codey Rei added the conversion, the first of four for him on the afternoon, to level the score.

 

Chiefs Development took the lead in the 36th minute after wing Shaun Stevenson showed good pace on the outside, finishing off a long run down the touchline.

 

Hong Kong captain Nick Hewson – who originally hails from Taranaki, one of the Chiefs’ four catchment regions in New Zealand – led the charge back minutes later, picking up the ball from the base of the scrum to crash over. McAdam’s conversion made it 14-14 at half-time.

 

Centre Dan Hollinshead, who scored two late tries, fends off Hong Kong fullback Andrew Henderson.

Chiefs Development centre Dan Hollinshead, who scored two late tries, fends off fullback Andrew Henderson.

The second half was evenly contested and as the clock ticked down it looked as if the new partnership would begin with a draw. However, the visitors shattered the deadlock in the 77th minute when centre Dan Hollinshead broke through Hong Kong’s interior defence with some incisive running and a great fend. Hollinshead snuck over for his second try in the game’s final minute.

 

The match proved a useful hit-out for Hong Kong, as Hall prepares his side for the new-look Asian Rugby Championship starting later this month.

 

The top tier has been reduced from five to three teams, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea, who will play each other home and away. Hong Kong begin their campaign against South Korea at Hong Kong Football Club on April 25 and said the re-introduction of the sevens players into the squad would prove crucial.

 

“This match has given us a line in the sand ahead of Korea,” Hall said. “There are a few things we need to tighten up and we need to get the sevens guys back into the squad, as we didn’t have half of our backs today. We’ll be focusing on the good things we did and integrating the sevens players into the wider squad over the next two weeks.”

 

David Dillon, the Chiefs Development coach, also praised Hong Kong’s performance and believed the team could become an increasingly powerful force in Asian rugby.

 

“The conditions weren’t conducive for much running rugby, but we got away with it at the end of the match, so we’re happy with that,” said Dillon, whose squad will depart on Monday.

 

“Hong Kong are very well coached. They run a good programme and have goals. I think they have the depth required to make a real push in the Asian Rugby Championship and, although it’s a bit more in the future, to push for that spot at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. I think they are well on to it.”

 

Source: HKRFU (www.hkrugby.com); Editing by SportAsia

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