Hong Kong, ranked 23rd in the World Rugby Rankings, closed the gap on Spain by six-tenths after they claimed the runner-up spot behind champions Japan in the Asia Rugby Championship 2016 with a 41-15 victory over Korea on Saturday.
Hong Kong’s rating points now stand at 59.03, a fraction under two points less than Los Leones in 22nd. Despite the defeat, Korea hold on to 29th place in the rankings although their points total has been reduced to 54.85 points – still 0.56 more than Portugal below them.
Hong Kong’s five-try performance secured second place for the hosts in this year's Asia Rugby Championship with 10 points after two wins over Korea were offset by two losses to runaway champions Japan. The Brave Blossoms finished top of the pile in Asia for a 12th straight year with four wins and 20 points while Korea recorded their first winless Asia Rugby Championship season, finishing with just two bonus points from four losses.
THE RIMENE MACHINE
It was Korea that scored first with winger Lee Soop-converting his own try to give the visitors a 7-0 lead against the run of play. Moments later though, Ben Rimene (pictured right) repeated the feat with a wonderful individual try and conversion to put Hong Kong on level terms.
A Rimene penalty put Hong Kong in front as the first quarter drew to a close, but the Koreans fought back and regained the lead at 12-10 when hooker hooker Kim Min-kyu touched down from a driven lineout.
Once again, Hong Kong found an almost immediate response when Toby Fenn (main picture) charged home from 40 metres out for a try which Rimene converted.
Doggedly sticking to their 10-man tactics, Korea pressurised Hong Kong into conceding a penalty and Lee slotted the three points to bring his side back to within two points.
However, the final word of the first half went to Hong Kong as winger Ryan Meacheam finished off a 70-metre break from scrum-half Jamie Hood to make the score 24-15 at the break.
Meacheam completed his double seven minutes after the restart and Hong Kong found themselves more than two scores ahead after Rimene tagged on the extras.
Rimene dropped a goal in the 70th minute to bring the score to 34-15, before winger Jamie Robinson capped the afternoon with Hong Kong’s fifth try as the hosts queued up for wave after wave of attacks in the final 10 minutes. Rimene's fifth conversion completed a flawless kicking display for him personally and settled the match at 41-15.
Hong Kong had previously only won one of their last three home matches against Korea, and head coach Leigh Jones was a satisfied man at the final whistle. “The score flattered us probably because that was a tough test. They fought for everything. All campaign we have said that if our set piece could function we could beat anyone. I think our set piece improved significantly this afternoon and we were then able to take our chances when we had them.”
MUKIDZA TREBLE SINKS CRANES
Neither of the two games played elsewhere on the weekend had much of an impact on the World Rugby Rankings either.
Kenya remain unchanged in 27th despite gaining just over half a rating point thanks to a 48-10 victory against hosts Uganda in the first leg of the Elgon Cup. Uganda, however, drop two places to 49th with Malta and Senegal the beneficiaries.
Darwin Mukidza was the star of the show for the Simbas with a hat-trick of tries and 13 points from the kicking tee. "We prepared well knowing we were playing away from home. Whenever I got the ball, I thought of gaining yards for my team, or finishing off whenever I found myself in a position to score," he said.
The Kenyan team will now travel to Rio de Janeiro to face Brazil on 18 June before embarking on a back-to-back Africa Cup Division 1A campaign against Zimbabwe and Namibia in July in Harare and Windhoek, respectively.
Meanwhile the Ugandan team will travel to South Africa for a 10-day training camp starting from 10 June to prepare for the Africa Cup, where the Cranes will face Namibia on 12 July.
Bermuda condemned Bahamas to a last place finish in the north zone of the Rugby Americas North Championship after defeating their Caribbean opponents 30-13 at the National Sports Centre.
The match doubled as a Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifier but the hopes of both nations of making it to Japan in three years’ time were over before the game even began following earlier defeats in the competition.
Bermuda could still finish second in the north zone standings if they defeat the Cayman Islands in their final fixture on 18 June and the Caymans fail to become the first team to beat runaway leaders Mexico a fortnight later.
Nigel Burgess, with a brace, and Antonio Perinchief and Bennet Gibson scored the tries for Bermuda, who climb one to 67th place in the rankings at the expense of Slovenia, while Ryan Knowles and Andrew Kemp scored for the Bahamas, who are now ranked 87th below Mauritius.
The World Rugby Rankings are officially updated at 12 noon every Monday.
Bermuda photo credit: Neville Zuill/Bermuda Rugby
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