An undersized Hong Kong were unable to defend their title against Belgium in the Final of the Emirates Airline Cup of Nations XV Rugby Tournament in Dubai on Friday night (Dec 14). However, Hong Kong “unearthed fresh talent” ahead of a crucial 2013 campaign.
“They were too big, too heavy and too skilful. The better team won on the day,” said Hong Kong senior coach Leigh Jones, in a press release. “But I couldn’t have asked for more from our guys. I’m proud, for it was a magnificent performance.”
Hong Kong—Asia’s second-best rugby nation behind Fiji—were unable to hold back Belgium’s bigger forwards who used their bulk and weight to good effect, winning the game 24-12.
In the opening minutes, the Belgians used their superior size and strength to set the tone by finishing off their hard work in a rolling maul to score a try. From there they were never headed.
The never-say-die Hong Kong team were able to grind away to be within 1 point at half-time (10-9), but Belgium scored another try just minutes after play resumed. Hong Kong brought the margin back to 3 points, but Belgium kicked away again.
“It was a magnificent performance to stay within touching distance for long periods of the game,” Jones said. “But in the end they were too strong for us.”
While Belgium’s score comprised two tries, four penalty kicks and a conversion, all of Hong Kong’s score came as the result of four penalty kicks—all from the left-foot of Chris McAdam.
Team manager and Hong Kong Rugby Football Union head of performance, Dai Rees, explained how the tournament gave their young side valuable experience coming into an important period for the territory’s rugby team in 2013.
“We have unearthed fresh talent in players like [flanker] Matt Lamming, [fly-half] Chris McAdam, [centres] Stewart Megaw and Craig Wilson, and the two young scrumhalves, Kenneth Hsieh and Charles Cheung,” Rees said in the press release.
“This tournament was all about developing players as we look ahead to a crucial few months at both 15s and sevens next year.
“We brought nine players on this tour and all of them have performed well, giving us depth. So in that sense, this tour has been an outstanding success,” Rees added.
Following the outcome of the tournament, Hong Kong retained their 28th position in the International Rugby Board world rankings, while Belgium climbed from 23rd to 21st – their highest-ever ranking.
Hong Kong won the Final in last year’s inaugural 4-nation Emirates Airline Cup of Nations XV Rugby Tournament. This year, Hong Kong beat Zimbabwe (22-7) and the United Arab Emirates (51-6) on their way to the Final against Belgium in the 3-day tournament played on Dec 8, 11 and 14.
Meanwhile, it was announced earlier this week that the Hong Kong national side is set to tour Zimbabwe where they will play a Test match on April 6, 2013. Aiming to qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, Hong Kong will use the match against the Zimbabwe Sables to prepare for the 2013 Asian Five Nations Championships beginning on April 27 back in Dubai.
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