Hong Kong ran out comfortable 51-0 winners in their Asia/Oceania play-off second leg at the Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2019.
The Asia Rugby Championship 2018 winners will now take their place alongside Canada, the loser of the Samoa v Germany play-off – the Pacific Islanders won the first leg 66-15 last weekend – and the Rugby Africa Gold Cup runners-up in the four-team global repechage in November that will determine the 20th and final qualifier for Japan 2019.
While Hong Kong only needed to avoid a loss of more than 23 points to advance, having won the first leg 26-3 in Rarotonga last weekend, coach Leigh Jones had predicted that more was to come from his charges, and they duly delivered with a six-try shutout of the Cook Islands at home.
Congratulations to Hong Kong who have secured a spot in the #RWC2019 repechage this November after beating the Cook Islands.— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) July 7, 2018
They will join Canada and two other teams TBC in November, with a spot in Pool B at Rugby World Cup 2019 up for grabs. https://t.co/N4swQQPLNX
After the game Jones said: “Our defence was superb. I can’t single anyone out, but as a whole, to keep two clean sheets, especially away in the Cook Islands, was really difficult to do.”
Looking ahead to the repechage and Hong Kong’s bid to reach a first-ever Rugby World Cup, Jones believes that his side has sent a message to the opposition this November.
“I think we sent a real strong message now. If you look at the Cook Islands, with so many players playing in top rugby competitions around the world, it is going to take a good side to beat us now.”
The Simbas scored five converted tries and one penalty against the Cranes four tries and one conversion. For the win, Kenya picks four points in the Africa Gold Cup to stay second with 12 as Namibia leads with 15.
Kenya’s five tries were scored by winger Jacob Ojee, captain Davies Chenge, half-back Samson Onsomu, winger Felix Ayange and prop Moses Amusala with Mukidza Darwin converting all.
For Uganda Kabras Sugar winger Philip Wokorach scored two tries with centre Michael Wokorach and fly-half Ivan Magomu also getting on the score-sheet.
Returning winger Ojee got things going for Kenya with his first try of 2018 with vice-captain Mukidza converting to ensure a perfect start for the home side.
Wokorach, who plays his professional rugby with Kenyan side Kabras Sugar, gave Uganda their first try but he sent the conversion wide only for Kenyan captain Chenge to double Kenya’s lead.
Scrum-half Onsomu and Ayange’s back to back tries saw Kenya lead 28-5 at the break.
Uganda got life going in the second half scoring through Magomu to move the score to 17-31 with Wokorach adding his second to reduce the deficit to 22-31.
A late try from substitute Amusala ensured Kenya picked up the win over the Cranes whose chances of qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2019 now hang in the balance.
Uganda coach John Duncan admitted as much after losing their second game with focus now set to turn to the global repechage.
Congrats Kenya Rugby @KenyaSimbas for making us proud today by whooping #Zimbabwe 45-36!! 🙌🏿 with you guys all the way. Collect my promise of KSh. 500,000 on Monday and another 500,000 when you defeat Uganda next Saturday. pic.twitter.com/6iSYlqAUiO— Sakaja Johnson (@SakajaJohnson) June 30, 2018
“That (qualifying for the Rugby World Cup) was obviously one of the goals,” he said, “we control our destiny we didn’t get there but we are still a good team.
“It’s a pleasure to coach these boys but the end of the day it’s not the result we wanted.”
“If you play a good team and allow them to get 38 points it’s going to be a tough challenge.
“I am very proud of the boys for fighting the way back to the challenge, they stuck to the plan which am very happy about.”
Kenya assistant coach Murray Roulston was pleased with the win against a strong Ugandan side.
“Uganda played very well in the second half,” he said, “it’s a big week just like last week against Zimbabwe but we got a good start in the first half.”
Rugby and athletics always put Kenya on the map! And yet the management of the Kenya Rugby Union are in deep slumber. pic.twitter.com/mURJwySAtN— Dominic WALUBENGO (@waluwande) July 8, 2018
“We improved the game from last week and there is still more but we are very happy with the boys and we look forward to the next round of matches.”
Uganda’s next game will be against Tunisia on August 4 in what will be their first home game of the season.
The Kenyan side will await Tunisia to arrive from Uganda to host them on August 11 before heading out to Namibia for season finale – in a match that could well decide the winner of the Gold Cup and which second African nation will be joining South Africa in Japan.
Africa Gold Cup Standings as of July 7
Lenience Tambwagra scored all the points for the visitors with two converted tries while for Tunisia Mohamed Mliss and Issam Ouerhani scored tries with Mohamed Ali Gafsi adding two penalties and a conversion.
The lead up to the match had developed into an international scandal after the Zimbabwe team slept on the streets earlier in the week rather than stay in the accommodation organized for them by the Tunisian Rugby Union.
According to the Zimbabwe team the hotel provided was completely unlivable and when photos of the Zimbabwe team sleeping in the street went viral, the Tunisia Rugby Union was forced to apologise.
But Tunisia then hit back saying there was nothing wrong with the accommodation and a Zimbabwe official was being unreasonable. The Tunisia team then even posed for a mock photo satirizing the Zimbabweans. (see below)
With such a tense build-up fireworks were expected after kick off.
Tunisia Rugby replies to Zimbabwe's mistreatment claims 🤣🤣 pic.twitter.com/0arFkjvOWW— Eric Njiru (@Erik_Njiru) July 6, 2018
Just six minutes into the game, Ali Gafsi came close to giving Tunisia the lead when he missed a penalty.
Mliss finally opened the scoring on 24 minutes scoring a try which Ali Gafsi again failed to convert.
Tunisia’s lead was shortlived as just three minutes later Tambwagra tied the score for Zimbabwe with a try before adding the conversion himself to put his team up 7-5 at half time.
Tambwagra added another try on 51 minutes to deepen Tunisia’s wounds, which he again converted to give Zimbabwe a comfortable 14-5 lead.
However a penalty from Ali Gafsi on 57 minutes brought the hosts within six points and a converted try to Ouerhani four minutes later gave them the lead.
Zimbabwe threw everything at the Tunisian line but in the final moments of the game, Tunisia were able to secure their win with another penalty to Ali Gafsi.
Zimbabwe National Rugby Team players slept in the street last night in Tunisia ahead of a @rugbyworldcup qualifier on Saturday against Tunisia.— Eric Njiru (@Erik_Njiru) July 3, 2018
Before that, they were held at the Airport for 6 hours as they could not raise €600 for Visa processing. pic.twitter.com/EoQBMPv2AI
“On the international level, we beat Zimbabwe last year,” said Tunisia coach Ahmed Guerbech after the match.
“We prepared well for this game. We still have three more games that are not going to be easy, two of which are away games.
“Today, we guaranteed an 80% chance of staying in Group A. The players spared no effort and they were true gladiators on the pitch, they made sacrifices by leaving everything behind and joining the team. Bravo to the team.”
Zimbabwe coach Jacob Stoman added: “What went wrong was obviously costly errors from our end. Each time we made a mistake, it got Tunisia back in the game.
“We lacked composure. Tunisia took advantage of that window of mistakes, that what sport is about, when you are given an opportunity, take it and go for it.”
Tunisia now travel to Kampala to take on Uganda on August 4 while Zimbabwe host table-topping Namibia in Harare on the same day.
Africa Gold Cup Standings as of July 7