Late S. Korea try seals win over Hong Kong
A dramatic late try gave South Korea a 21-19 win over last year's runners-up Hong Kong in their first match back in the top division of the Asian Five Nations on Saturday.
The visitors were forced to dig deep in the second half as Hong Kong forced their way back into the contest after a poor opening period, dominating possession and territory.
The home side looked to have the game sewn up when leading 19-14 with less than three minutes to go but centre Park Noh-Hoon powered through to touch down and fullback Kim Won-Yong converted.
It was a shattering blow for Hong Kong, who came into this year's tournament with hopes of challenging perennial champions Japan for the top spot in Asian rugby.
"We're very, very happy and all credit to the players," said delighted South Korean head coach Seo Chun-Oh.
"In the first half we concentrated on playing more experienced players and in the second half we got a lot of young boys who are strong and fit to play so that's why you saw the difference and I guess it worked out well."
He said the aim was to close the gap with Japan but the team would be looking for wins over the United Arab Emirates and Kazakhstan.
Out-of-sorts Hong Kong struggled to find any rhythm in a scrappy first half and a brace of converted tries by Korean centre Kim Nam-Wook gave the visitors a deserved 14-6 lead at halftime.
But the home side looked a different proposition in the second period of the match at Hong Kong Football Club, pinning the South Koreans back and edging ahead 16-14 after a try by hooker Tom Bolland that was converted.
In nervy closing stages, Yiu Kam-shing dropped the ball just metres from the line as Hong Kong looked to extend their lead before Jamie Hood scored his second penalty to give the home side breathing space with a five-point cushion.
But it was not enough as South Korea, promoted last year after a season out of the top division, broke out and touched down for the crucial try to get their campaign off to a flying start.
"We knew physically South Korea would cause problems. All credit to them, they deserved their win," said Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones, adding lack of team cohesion and missed chances cost his side dearly.
"If you don't covert pressure into points, you can get a kick up the backside," he said.
Tournament favourites Japan were playing the UAE later on Saturday.