HONG KONG—In the four team 2015 Cup of Nations competition in Hong Kong, Russia played Zimbabwe and Hong Kong met Portugal in the second round of matches on Tuesday evening Nov 17. Following Russia and Hong Kong wins these two teams head for a final showdown for the Cup on Saturday Nov 21, 2015.
Russia vs Portugal
Russia put up a strong performance against Zimbabwe showing strength in the pack and their execution of structured play, pushing with their forwards and demonstrating determined running by their backs.
Zimbabwe shocked the Russians by coming fast from the starting blocks and scoring in the right hand corner from the kickoff but the conversion was missed and those 5-points were the only points Zimbabwe were destined to score.
Russia soon got the game under control scoring their first try by Igor Galinovsky in the 4th minute, with a final placement under the posts. The Conversion was secured and 7-points on the board. From that point on Russia kept the game firmly under control allowing Zimbabwe little opportunity to approach the Russian line except for brief spells towards the end of the match.
The outcome was never in doubt after the first few minutes of play with Russia relentlessly applying pressure. They were awarded a penalty try in the 12th minute to take the score to 14-5. A try by Denis Antonov and conversion by Fly half Sergey Yanushkin in the 16th minute pushed the score to 21-5.
Portugal’s Bisele Tshamala was sent off for stamping in the 18th minute which added to their difficulties. Russia’s persistent pressure moved the score onto 26-5 with a try at the left corner flag by Nikita Ilienko and then a burst through by captain Vasily Artemyev on 37th minute to make it a 33-5 at the half time whistle.
It was looking a bit like a procession as Russia’s No 8 Victor Gresev grounded for another try 3minutes into the second half (38-5) by scrum half Rushan Yagudin on 50minutes (45-5) and a final unconverted try by Artemyev at the left corner flag on the 56th minute took the total to 50-5, the final winning total. Eight tries in total with a further 10 points added by the boot of Yanushkin.
Zimbabwe did well to limit Russia to 3-tries in the second half and still had speed in the legs in the last 10minutes of the match to make a number of forages into Russian territory but could not force a score.
Hong Kong vs Zimbabwe
By contrast the Hong Kong match with Portugal was very even. It was a hard fought game with strong running by both teams. Open play was the order of the day with many kicks up field to gain territorial advantage. But in close proximity to the opposition’s line both sides also showed strength in the packs. But the good running play was not matched by the handling, close to the try lines in particular handling errors occurred. There was also strong tackling all over the field and many of the players will feel a bit sore for a few days.
Portugal scored first with a well taken penalty kick to take them to 3-0. Hong Kong equalized after 20 minutes and then Hong Kong pushed ahead after 38 minutes with a second penalty, 6-3, which was the half time score. After a failed penalty attempt by Hong Kong, Portugal kicked successfully to equal the score.
It was not until late in the match (68th minute) that Hong Kong broke the deadlock with a try by reserve winger Jamie Robinson which was converted by replacement fly half Niall Rowark to make the score 13-5. There was a nail biting finish but Hong Kong held on to take the win.
Russia and Hong Kong are now both on 9-points going into their head to head on Saturday, although Russia tops the table on game points difference. This sets up a Nations Cup decider when the two teams meet at 5:00pm on the final day of the competition on Saturday Nov 21.
Portugal after losing 13-5 to Hong Kong narrowly missed scoring a bonus point and stay on zero as does Zimbabwe. So the early match on Saturday (2:00pm start) will be an important decider for 3rd and 4th positions.