Hong Kong crowned Asian Junior champions

(IRB.COM) Monday 14 September 2009
By Owen Neilson
From Hong Kong

 Hong Kong crowned Asian Junior champions
Hong Kong's players celebrate their title success on home soil

Hong Kong Under 20s gave the home crowd cause to celebrate after outplaying Chinese Taipei to win 37-0 and be crowned Olympus Capital Asian Junior Rugby champions at the Hong Kong Football Club.

The hosts were the outstanding performers in the seven-team competition, triumphing 69-9 against Malaysia on day one and then 51-10 over Sri Lanka in the semi final. After faltering at the final hurdle in the last two tournaments Hong Kong were determined to go one better this time out and showed their class in front of a partisan crowd.

Chinese Taipei had shocked defending champions Korea 34-29 after extra time in Wednesday's other semi final and started well against a nervous looking Hong Kong outfit, edging possession in the opening minutes. However once the locals regained their composure the fifth seeds had few answers to a side superior in all departments.

Niall Rowark got the scoreboard ticking over with a simple penalty, then launched a kick into touch for a menacing lineout metres from the Chinese Taipei try-line. The forwards looked equally matched in stature, but the Chinese Taipei pack was in for a torrid time against a well drilled and clinical Hong Kong unit. Robert Reid-Kay claimed the throw and powered over for the first of six tries and an 8-0 lead.

Chinese Taipei then had second row Chih-Hung Li sin-binned for stopping a quick throw-in and from the resulting penalty wing Alex Raper punished his indiscipline. Spinning the ball wide the flyer managed to keep his balance near the touchline and Hong Kong backs became forwards, pushing him over the try.

Frustration for Chinese Taipei

Adam Fullgrabe, the bruising number 8 who has been one of the stars of the tournament after only taking up rugby two years ago, got the third in typical fashion, driving from the back of the scrum with usual devastating effect to give the hosts an 18-0 lead at half time.

Chinese Taipei's valiant defence wasn't going to be enough and they started the half knowing they needed to score next to have any chance of getting back into the match. However, only two minutes in, buckling under the sheer relentlessness of the hosts' all-round attacking game, Chinese Taipei again found themselves pinned in their own corner.

In a carbon copy of the first try, Reid-Kay won the lineout ball and fed prop Chris Carpio, who smuggled his way over. A quarter of the way into the second half the contest was decided as flanker Andrew Bridle stole a lineout throw to make it 30-0 Hong Kong.

The visitors looked to inspirational centre Hung Ching-Che and his red boots to kick-start a recovery, but with the Hong Kong pack strangling the ball he had too few opportunities to show his quick feet in midfield. Time and again as he looked for space he found only a red wall of defenders closing him down and his frustration resulted in a yellow card for a high tackle.

As the game became more disjointed two more yellow cards followed for Hong Kong flanker Jackman and Chinese Taipei substitute Chen Tsung-Wei before full back Sean Simpkins rounded off a sweeping move for the sixth try.

Real desire

At the final whistle the bitter memories of defeat by Korea in the last two finals were replaced with the huge cheers of victory echoing around Hong Kong Football Club.

"There was a real desire and purpose today, I'm pleased for the boys, three years they've come close - half our squad was in Korea last year and they know what it's like to lose in a final," said Hong Kong coach Mike Allen.

"Typically in Hong Kong rugby they don't pride themselves on forward play and being able to tactically exploit that, but that's exactly what we did today."

Captain Ed Rolston, part of the losing team last year, added: "(I'm) overjoyed. Words can't describe how happy we are. We were focused on holding them to nil and we had the advantage of the home crowd, but I hope it says something about how good we are."

"Hopefully that has shattered the ice and stopped us choking so hopefully we'll hold on to that mantle."

In the final day's other games Sri Lanka upset Korea 31-15 in the third place play-off after the defending champions had led 10-0. Two fine solo tries from Sri Lankan centre Darshana Ethipola sealed his side's third placing for the third year in a row.

In the fifth place play-off, seventh seeds Malaysia were level with Thailand at 12-12 at half time, but a devastating performance after the break saw the Thais run out comfortable 39-12 winners.