(Hong Kong) 16 May 1998 -- Twice scoring two tries in quick succession, Hong Kong downed the United States 43-25 in today's battle for first place in the Canterbury of New Zealand Pacific Rim Rugby Championship at Hong Kong's Aberdeen Stadium.
The USA's first loss of the 1998 season owed to poorly done restarts, missed tackles, and coughing up the ball under pressure. Also, though often threatening, the Eagles were frequently unable to convert scoring opportunities into points.
"We're disappointed to lose," commented US coach Jack Clark. "We have a lot of work to do before Saturday," he said, referring to next weekend's clash with archrival Canada in Vancouver, the last game of a three-week road swing.
In the first half, the Dragons broke open a 6-3 contest with tries by wing Chris Gordon and number eight Paul Dingley in a three-minute span, en route to a 21-6 lead at the interval. In the second period center Roger Leeson and Gordon again put the hosts comfortably in front of the US.
The Eagles fought back with tries by wing Vaea Anitoni, fullback Andre Blom, and center Alatini Saulala, while wing Luke Nabaro also got on the board for Hong Kong. The final try count of five to three accurately reflected the Dragons' better execution on the day.
Hong Kong moves to 2-0 and first place in the competition, though the locals didn't go home entirely happy. In today's curtain raiser, Hong Kong's World Cup side was thrashed 60-3 by archrival mainland China (Hong Kong's Pacific Rim side of expatriates is largely ineligible for the 1999 tournament in Wales).
The United States falls to 1-1, tied with Canada for second place.
"We weren't happy with our work in restarts, ball retention, or defense," Clark said in evaluating the US team's performance. "Full credit to Hong Kong on the victory," he continued. "Today's match was exactly what we need for our World Cup preparations."
Thinking of the World Cup, the Clark was sure to call attention to the US performance at the Women's Rugby World Cup in the Netherlands, where the USA was to play New Zealand in today's final. "Our mission here in Asia pales in comparison to the women's world championship efforts. Needless to say, we're very proud of their accomplishments."
Hong Kong: Tries: Chris Gordon (2), Paul Dingley, Roger Leeson, Luke Nabaro
Conv: Chris Yates (3)
Pens: Chris Yates (4)
USA: Tries: Vaea Anitoni, Andre Blom, Alatini Saulala
Conv: Matt Alexander (2)
Pens: Matt Alexander (2)
Referee: Sakaraia Vuki (Fiji)