Hong Kong beat Sri Lanka 40-7 on Saturday to claim their fifth straight Asia Rugby U19 Championship title.
The victory at the Hong Kong Football Club followed last week’s 37-8 win in Colombo and ensured Hong Kong of their place at the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2018, alongside the already confirmed Oceania champions Fiji and Samoa, who were relegated from the World Rugby U20 Championship in 2017.
The hosts opened the scoring early with winger Marcus Ramage collecting his fourth try of the series in the fifth minute. Co-captain Max Denmark extended the lead midway through the half with his first try and fly-half Paul Altier’s second conversion pushed Hong Kong’s lead to 14-0.
Sri Lanka, who were much improved in this second outing, replied with their only try at the end of the half as full-back Chamod Fernando stood up the Hong Kong defence with some nice open-field running. Rundi Silva’s conversion left Sri Lanka trailing 14-7 at the break.
It was the kind of fight-back that coach Stephen Dowse was hoping for to test his charges ahead of next year’s U20 Trophy.
“Credit to Sri Lanka, their intensity really was at another level. They really went up a gear throughout the game, but for us, it shows that it is the details that really count. When we executed our game plan, and it wasn’t complicated - it is about guys knowing where they need to be and working hard off the ball – and when we did that we got our rewards,” Dowse said.
SECOND HALF SURGE
Hong Kong brought on their more experienced age-grade campaigners in the second half and they were rewarded with 26 unanswered points.
Altier, who marshalled the squad well for a second straight outing, opened the scoring in the 48th minute, converting his own try to extend Hong Kong’s lead to 21-7. The front row got involved as well, with prop Jay Cooke getting on the board in the 55th minute, followed by reserve hooker Callum Tam just three minutes later. Alex Nisbet collected his second try in two games with Altier’s conversion closing out the scoring.
Now Dowse and his charges can look forward to the challenge that awaits them at the U20 Trophy, where they will be hoping to improve on their winless record at the 2017 edition.
“The hardest part for us if we look at the past three or four World Trophies is making that leap and closing the gap on the other teams at that level,” said Dowse.
“We are fortunate to have the full backing of the union and we will address our build-up to next year’s competition to make sure that we give ourselves and these guys the best opportunity to succeed. This is a really talented group and there are some standout players here.
“There is a core of a good team here and we now need to make sure we look at other players coming through to see who can add value to this group. That competition within the squad is essential for us.
“Asia is at one level and we expect to win that and dominate that, but now we need to challenge ourselves on the world stage.”
RWC 2019 Tickets
RWC 2019 Official Ticketing site NOW LIVE
Fans can now register interest to apply for Rugby World Cup 2019 tickets