Hong Kong too strong for the Philippines

(IRB.COM) Monday 18 April 2011
 
 Hong Kong too strong for the Philippines
Like Japan, the Philippines are unbeaten in the three-year history of the Asian 5 Nations, but know they face their biggest challenge yet in 2011

Hong Kong warmed up for their HSBC Asian 5 Nations challenge with an emphatic 74-10 defeat of the Philippines in an historic first ever test match between the two countries in Manila on Saturday.

The victory had no impact on Hong Kong’s position of 37th in the IRB World Rankings, but the 12 tries scored will give the side confidence as they travel to Almaty to face Kazakhstan in the opening Asian 5 Nations match of 2011 this weekend.

“Kazakhstan is a completely different animal,” admitted HKRFU Coach Development Manager and Senior Coach Leigh Jones.

“I am not sure how much this game will help in our preparations for what we are going to face in Almaty, but it does mean that the team will take a bit of added confidence on the road.”

The score in Manila may appear one sided, but Hong Kong Director of Rugby and Head Coach Dai Rees, whose side beat Kazakhstan 19-15 en route to finishing third in the Top 5 last year, had plenty of praise for the only side who can match Japan’s unbeaten record since the Asian 5 Nations began in 2008.

“Give credit to the Philippines, they manned up and were very physical in defence. They have some size and athleticism and I think they will acquit themselves very well in Korea [in the A5N Division I] and have a bright future in Asian Rugby,” insisted Rees.

“They kept at us right through the game but we kept our composure, retained our shape and the experience at elite level of Asian Rugby held through. The more experience the Philippines gets like this the better they and Asian Rugby will be for it.”

Perfect learning experience

The Philippines have been a team on the rise in recent years to take their place in Division I alongside Korea, Singapore and Malaysia and within touching distance of a place alongside the region’s elite nations in the Top 5.

However, despite the heavy loss in this historic test and a warm up match between the two sides earlier in the week, there was still plenty of positives for the Philippines coach Matt Cullen to take away as they prepare for the Division I challenge in June.

“There was no doubt that it was a tough day at the office, but that is the reason we wanted to play Hong Kong in the first place,” explained Cullen. “This will be the ideal build up for us for the Division I competition. We are going to have to play the best rugby we can play in Korea even to win one match, so we need to experience what is required to compete at this level.

“We blooded 15 new players over the last two games and had eight new caps in today’s match alone. We have another five players who will be available for Korea so today has really helped in our selection and identifying where we need to work. I can’t fault the team effort today but we need to work harder to keep our shape and keep to our patterns.

“It has been a great day for Philippines Rugby and we appreciate the support provided by Hong Kong for this game. We know we will be in a dog fight in Korea and today’s match has helped us define what we need to work on over the next month to prepare for what is going to be the biggest tournament in the history of rugby in the Philippines.”

While this match had no impact on the IRB World Rankings, three others played on Saturday did result in positional changes with Barbados the biggest movers of the week with a four-place elevation to 72nd after beating St Lucia 31-12 in the NACRA Men’s Championship.

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Barbados will now play the British Virgin Islands on 30 April for the right to join Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana in the South Zone round two. St Lucia’s defeat has resulted in a fall of two places to 82nd.

The weekend’s other NACRA Men’s Championship encounter saw Cayman Islands beat Jamaica 36-24 to set up a meeting with Mexico in the North Zone round one decider. The victory lifted Cayman Islands two places to 67th and saw Jamaica fall by the same to 86th.

Poland, meanwhile, rise one place to 33rd on the back of a 32-18 victory over the Netherlands in their European Nations Cup 2012 Division 1B encounter in Krakow, a result which sees their visitors slip one place to 42nd.