The Hong Kong U20s lost their opening match of the 2017 World Rugby U20 Trophy 26-7 against Fiji on Wednesday in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Wet conditions led to heavy footing and sidelined both sides’ speediest players, which coupled with the Fijian side's size advantage resulted in four tries from Fiji's forwards. The loss leaves Hong Kong with zero points and last place in Pool B and looking to catch up in next match against Portugal this Saturday.
Fijian captain and lock Temo Mayanavanua put his side on the board in the seventh minute after collecting the ball at the base of a ruck in front of Hong Kong’s posts to muscle over the line.
After conceding the early try, Hong Kong steadied the ship and were competitive for the next hour before falling off the pace in the final ten minutes - conceding two late tries to what was otherwise an impressive score line and a good team performance.
Fullback Matt Worley created Hong Kong’s best scoring chance of the opening half, pouncing on an error by the Fijian wing who was put under excellent pressure by good rush defence from Austin Robertshaw. Worley, running well in support, took the loose ball off the floor cleanly and sprinted deep into Fiji territory before being taken down on the five-metre line.
Neither side was able to score for the remainder of the opening period with Fiji entering half-time with a narrow 7-0 lead.
Hong Kong started the second half positively, forcing Fiji into a defending scrum on its own try-line in the 48th minute.
Captain Mark Coebergh showed great awareness and a burst of speed to nip past his opposing scrumhalf and dive on the ball for Hong Kong’s only try of the afternoon. Worley’s conversion from in front of the posts levelled the scores at 7-all with thirty minutes remaining.
Hong Kong’s building momentum was derailed moments later when hooker Jack Scanlon was shown a yellow card.
Fiji used their man advantage to devastating effect at the first scrum after Scanlon was sent off temporarily, as No. 8 Bogidrau found space on the blind-side and shrugged off an initial tackle before lumbering across the line for Fiji’s second try. The conversion extended the Fijian margin to 14-7.
A committed team-wide defensive effort saw Hong Kong hold the Fijians off for the next eight minutes to return to full strength, but the effort and heavy mud sapped their energy and Fiji pulled away with tries in the 71st and 80th minutes to push their lead to 26-7 at full-time.
Coebergh was complimentary about his side’s performance saying, “It was an incredibly hard game. Fiji have some big boys and the guys worked really, really hard this week.”
Captain and lock Temo Mayanavanua, commended Hong Kong’s performance, saying “They held us to a very tight first half, which is what we expected from them. But the boys held in and came out strong in the second half.
The result sees Fiji go to the top of the table in Pool B on five points with a bonus point for scoring four tries in the match. Portugal, who narrowly edged hosts Uruguay 20-18, are in second place on 4 points trailed by Uruguay who picked up a crucial double bonus point after scoring four tries and finishing within seven points of the winners.
Uruguay’s two points on the table leaves Hong Kong with plenty of motivation to catch up in their next game this Saturday (Sep 2, 9 pm) versus Portugal.