Hong Kong got their HSBC Asian 5 Nations 2011 campaign off to the perfect start with a 23-10 victory over Kazakhstan on Saturday, a result which sees them climb five places to 32nd in the latest IRB World Rankings.
First half tries by captain Tom McColl and scrum half Peter McKee gave Hong Kong a comfortable 20-3 half-time lead in Almaty and there was no way back for their hosts, who were reduced to 13 players after the break with two forwards red carded.
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Hong Kong’s victory over the 2010 runners up lifts them above Germany, Tunisia, Kenya, Poland and Korea to 32nd and their highest ranking for two years. The defeat means Kazakhstan fall three places to 30th and now sit just three tenths above the conquerors.
Hong Kong now return home to face defending champions Japan on Saturday, a side who overwhelmed them 94-5 last year en route to claiming Asia’s place at Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand.
Kazakhstan, meanwhile, will be looking to bounce back when they travel to Abu Dhabi to face the United Arab Emirates a day earlier. Their hosts will also be seeking an historic first ever victory, having drawn 13-13 with Sri Lanka in Colombo in their A5N debut.
The match in Colombo did not impact the IRB World Rankings as the United Arab Emirates, who have taken the now-disbanded Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union’s place in the Top 5 competition, are not yet an IRB Member Union and therefore not ranked.
However, it was a vital match for both teams in their quest to remain in the top tier of the Asian 5 Nations beyond their debut year and Sri Lanka will be ruing a missed opportunity in the dying minutes that would have given them victory at home.
A 4,000-strong partisan crowd at a waterlogged Ceylonese Rugby Football Club groaned in despair after the assistant referee adjudged that replacement wing Lasitha Costa had knocked the ball on as he slid over the try-line.
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The first half was scoreless, but the match came to live after the break with Division I champions Sri Lanka establishing an 8-0 lead following Eranda Swarnatillaka’s try, only to see the UAE hit back with prop Dan Boatwright claiming the honour of their first Test try.
Nuwan Hettiarachchi raced in to tie the scores at 13-13 following a rare backline move, but the conversion was missed and as the tension build as the clock counted down both Hettiarachchi and Saliya Kumara missed with penalty attempts.
“The result was very disappointing,” admitted Sri Lanka coach Ellis Meachen. “We created enough opportunities to win and it should have really come down to goal kicking. All in all we played enough good rugby to win the game. UAE played well in close quarters but didn’t offer anything in the backs.
“I have been here for four months but this is the first time I woke up and it has rained. We haven’t trained in the rain and the boys did very well in alien conditions. Sri Lanka should be proud of them.”
There was one other match this weekend which did effect the IRB World Rankings with Belgium climbing one place to 25th after beating the Netherlands 30-18 in their European Nations Cup 2012 encounter Amsterdam.
The victory takes Belgium back to the top of the Division 1B standings and above Morocco in the rankings, while the Netherlands fall two places to 44th with Croatia and Uganda the beneficiaries of their defeat at home.
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