South Korea claim away win over Hong Kong in Asia Rugby Championship

27 April, 2015

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A brace of tries each in the first-half from powerful fullback Jang Seong-min and speedy right winger Jegal Bin set the foundation for a 33-26 victory for South Korea over hosts Hong Kong in week two of the Asia Rugby Championship on Saturday.

The dangerous backs found holes in the defence to silence a sizeable crowd at Hong Kong Football Club and give South Korea an invaluable victory in their campaign to win back the number two slot in Asia currently held by Hong Kong.

Hong Kong desperately tried to claw their way back from a 25-7 deficit at the break but Korea hung on for a crucial victory in the home-and-away competition, which has been revamped to a top three format, including seven-time Asian Five Nations champions Japan.

"We weren't good enough on the day," conceded Hong Kong head coach Andy Hall. "Our execution was poor and to give away four tries in the first half and concede a bonus point is disappointing."

The powerfully-built Jang, who scored a brace against Japan in the tournament opener last week in Incheon – Japan winning 56-30 – was once again in superb form as he easily sliced through to score the first of Korea's five tries in the fifth minute.

Winger Bin Jegal then added a second a few minutes later when he rounded opposite number Salom Yiu Kam-shing to dot down to give his side a 12-0 lead.

Hong Kong who looked slow and a bit rusty had to thank sevens star Tom McQueen for their first points on the board when a solo effort saw the winger touch down under the post – having taken a quick tap and chipped and chased successfully.

But that was about the only success for the home team as Korea dominated the breakdown and the set-pieces to provide good ball to their dangerous backs with Jegal and Jang scoring again.

Korean fly-half Oh Youn-hyung could have put the result beyond doubt if he had his kicking boots on but he only managed to convert one try and a penalty as the visitors led 25-7 at halftime. Oh added a second penalty soon after the break but the sin-binning of Korean tighthead Kim Kwang-sik for a shoulder charge set the stage for a comeback by the home team.

Loosehead prop John Aikman smuggled the ball over the line from a driving maul and substitute fly-half Niall Rowark added the extra points to make it 28-14.

A lapse in concentration resulted in one of many turnovers by Hong Kong and Korea gratefully accepted the gift with left winger Chang Yong-heung scoring a try against the run of play to push the lead to 33-14.

But with Korea wilting fast, and with Hong Kong bringing on their bench, the tide began to turn. Fullback Alex McQueen spotted a hole and was through in a flash to score Hong Kong's third try and make it 33-19.

With time running out, winger Salom Yiu Kam-shing then dotted down making full use of a long cut-out pass which created room for him to round the last line of defence. A successful conversion by Rowark brought Hong Kong within reach, 33-26, but time had run out.

"We have a lot of work to do now. It will not get any easier," Hall said. "We had targeted both the Korean games but life is difficult with two games away now."

Hong Kong travel to Japan and South Korea over the next two weekends before hosting Japan at home in the final round on May 23.

"Korea took their opportunities and credit to them. But it was all about what we didn't do today," Hall added.

A delighted Korea coach Chung Hyung Suk commented on the win, "It was truly a team performance and I think that was the difference today. We played as a team with a lot of heart but also very smartly. We implemented certain changes from how we played Japan, particularly in our defensive patterns and where we wanted to play on the pitch and that helped us create space against Hong Kong."

South Korea will have a bye week before travelling to Japan but coach Chung is realistic about his expectations against the seven-time Asian champions saying, "of course Japan is the best team in Asia so we want to learn from them and that is going to be our biggest objective when we travel there in a few weeks."

The win brings South Korea's series points total to six after today's bonus point win. Hong Kong are on two points after collecting their own four-try bonus point and another for a loss within seven. Defending champions Japan are atop the table on six points after their opening win and with a game in hand on South Korea