Hong Kong defeated Korea 29-19 in Kaohsiung on Saturday to claim a seventh straight Asia Rugby U19 Championship title and clinch qualification for the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2020.

The region's leading age-group competition went right down to the wire following a mixed set of results over the first two rounds which included a shock 28-15 defeat for Hong Kong to tournament hosts Chinese Taipei.

That setback meant the six-time defending champions went into their final match level on points with Chinese Taipei and needing to beat Korea, who had also won one and lost one of their first two fixtures, to retain the trophy and make it through to the U20 Trophy in Spain next September.

Korea stunned Hong Kong with two early tries from Taepung Seo Junchoul Yang, the second converted by Hwiwon Lee, to race into a 12-0 lead. However, Hong Kong fought back manfully and a brace of tries from Nicholas McGrory and a Thad Summers conversion levelled the scores at 12-12 at the break.

Second-half surge

After a quiet opening to the third quarter, James Rivers' fourth try of the tournament sparked the match back into life and with Summers once again adding the extras, Hong Kong were ahead 19-12. 

That effort was followed by a try from Toby Jurecka on Hong Kong’s next attack after they kicked deep from a penalty to set the attacking lineout with the rolling maul effort putting the burly back-row over the line.

The conversion put Hong Kong 24-12 to the good before prop Nick McGrory finished a three-on-one overlap to push the pre-tournament favourites three scores ahead.

Korea grabbed a consolation a few minutes from the end when Jongsu Seo dotted down for their third try.

Hong Kong's second bonus-point win of the tournament saw them finish top of the table on 10 points with Korea and Chinese Taipei level on nine points, while Singapore finished fourth on three.

Hong Kong, whose squad featured just five returning players from last year and a new coach in former Hong Kong sevens and 15s international Mark Wright, are the second team to qualify for the World Rugby U20 Trophy after South American qualifiers Uruguay.

Hosts Spain and relegated U20 Championship side Scotland are also assured of a place in the eight team line-up.