The Philippine and Hong Kong Rugby Football Unions are leading the way with Rugby development programs and tours in Asia. This year, the Philippines have hosted both the Hong Kong National Men’s 15s Asian 5 Nations Premier team the Hong Kong Tertiary Select. The National Men’s team played against the Philippine Volcanoes in April, while the Tertiary Select team is here to play the Philippine Development team in a two-game series. The Philippines will also send their inaugural Under14 and Under16 National Teams to play Hong Kong in October. The focus for both Unions with these tours is to develop the sport of Rugby Union in Asia. This also certainly helps a developing Rugby nation like the Philippines with all aspects of promoting Rugby as a sport for Filipinos in the Philippines.
The Hong Kong Tertiary Select team is made up of younger development players based in Hong Kong who are vying to be selected in the Hong Kong men’s team -- ranked 2nd in Asia, while the Philippine National Development team are all locally based players who are also striving to win a position in the Philippine National Men’s Team.
The first game between the 2 teams was played on August 17 at Rizal National Stadium -- the first Rugby Union game to be played at the newly renovated venue. The game started at a hectic pace and both teams were evenly matched in the first quarter with Hong Kong taking a lead of 14 – 0. The Philippines were unlucky not to score off a wide backline move when Jaime Zobel received a well-timed pass from Andrew Wolf and was able to scoot down the sideline only to be tackled with the try line in sight. The Hong Kong team’s fitness and precision started to show in the second quarter and this lead to three quick tries before the halftime break. The Hong Kong scrum started to dominate the front row late in the second half and successfully wheeled three scrums to turn over the feed; this consequently led to a glut of possession which allowed the sharp Hong Kong backline the time and space to score out wide.
The Philippines were able to steady the ship and regain their breath at halftime. Unfortunately the Philippines received two yellow cards in the second half which left the team with only 14 players for 20 minutes. The Philippines showed good determination in the third quarter and controlled possession to allow Tim Bweheni to break through the defense and score under the post in the 37th minute of the game. Hong Kong then finished strongly and ran in three tries in the last 20 minutes of the game and their superior fitness was the overriding factor at the end of both halves. With this match being the highest level that these local players had ever played at, it was obvious that match fitness is a necessary requirement to win international games at this level. The final score was 48 – 7 to Hong Kong.
The second game of the Philippine/Hong Kong Asian Development Series will be played at the RECS Sports Complex in St. Cruz Laguna this Saturday August 20 and the Philippines will definitely be out for revenge and now understand what it takes to play an international team like Hong Kong.
Thanks go out to Phil Gittus, Rob Hawtree and Harry Wang for officiating the game while Ross Schirmer and Precious Regner kept the match statistics.
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