Wing Salom Yiu Kam Shing flashes away to score the game-winner for Hong Kong. Photo: Hiro | RJP.
A last-gasp try from Salom Yiu Kam-shing earned Hong Kong a narrow 38-37 victory over 13-man South Korea in Incheon on Saturday to keep alive their hopes of finishing second in the inaugural Asia Rugby Championship.
Winger Yiu crossed over in extra-time to score his second try of the match under the posts and the successful conversion by Niall Rowark enabled Hong Kong to snatch victory over their opponents who had played the last 30 minutes with 14 men after a red-card was shown to tighthead prop Kim Kwang-sik for a shoulder charge on John Aikman.
The home team finished with 13 men on the park when centre Kim Nam-uk was sin-binned for an off-the-ball incident and the two-man advantage gave Hong Kong a renewed burst of hope as they grabbed their chance with Hong Kong lock forward Adrian Griffiths delivering the try-scoring pass to Yiu who covered 40 metres to score.
“It was a courageous performance from the guys. We made too many errors and dug a hole for ourselves but they showed a lot of heart to fight back,” said pleased head coach Andy Hall.
“That last try certainly changed my post-match talk. But it was a lot of character which got us through in the end,” Hall added.
Korea, who had won the opening leg 33-26 last month at the Hong Kong Football Club, looked well on the way to securing another win as they stretched their 19-12 lead at halftime to 29-12.
Korea captain Kim Jeong Min breaks through the Hong Kong defence. Photo: Hiro|RJP
Roving flanker and captain Kim Jeong-min grabbed a brace in the first half, his second coming with Hong Kong down to 14 men with prop Jack Parfitt in the sin-bin for a shoulder charge.
Korean right winger Bin Jegal also scored from a snappy move by the backs but Hong Kong reduced the deficit with Yiu going over from close range after taking a lovely inside pass from fly-half Ben Rimene.
A driving maul led to a try from flanker Toby Fenn as Hong Kong finished the first half on the ascendancy and trailing just by seven points.
The second half began disastrously for the visitors when a loose pass from Lachlan Chubb was intercepted by Korean left winger Chang Yong-heung who ran 70 metres to score untouched.
Korea lost prop Kim Kwang-sik to a red card ten minutes into the second half but that did not deter the rest of the forwards who turned on the pressure giving fly-half Oh Youn-hyung plenty of time to knock over a drop-goal from 20 metres out.
Hong Kong cut the deficit to 29-17 when Tyler Spitz, who had come in for centre Jamie Hood in the first half, crossed over but Korea kept play inside the Hong Kong 22 and went further ahead, 32-17 with a penalty.
Lock Paul Dwyer scored Hong Kong’s fourth try to cut the deficit again, 32-24, but the feisty Koreans refused to lie down with centre Kim Nam-uk going over to stretch the lead to 37-24.
Hong Kong skipper Hewson who had been in the thick of the action all day, gave his team renewed hope when he went over with two minutes on the clock to make it a one score match, 37-31.
And when Kim Nam-uk was sin-binned right at the death, it gave Hong Kong a fresh burst of energy and they kept moving the ball around in the last passage of play before Yiu spotted the gap to score the winning try.
Hong Kong celebrate their come-from-behind win in Incheon. Photo: Hiro | RJP
“We could have gone on for 90 or 100 minutes the way we were playing. The guys showed a lot of heart to win that match,” Hall said.
Both Hong Kong and Korea have eight points – Korea earning two bonus points despite the loss for scoring four tries or more and finishing within a seven-point margin – and the second-placed spot will only be decided after next Saturday’s final encounter between Hong Kong and Japan.
Japan who have already been crowned champions will be favourites to remain unbeaten in the competition having beaten Hong Kong 41-0 in Tokyo.
“Second-place will be down to points differential. But right now we are not thinking of that. We just want to savour this result,” Hall added.
Hong Kong have a +29 points differential on South Korea but will need to work hard to maintain that edge when the ever-dangerous Japan visit Aberdeen Stadium on Saturday (16.00, 23 May).
That match will be preceded by the final match in the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship when Hong Kong host Japan at Aberdeen (13.00). Kazakhstan lead the ARWC on 6 points over Japan on 5 points but Japan have a match in hand and an away win in Hong Kong would see them claim Asia’s women’s fifteens title next weekend.