Germany belied their position as the lowest ranked team in the Rugby World Cup 2019 Repechage with an impressive 26-9 defeat of top seeds Hong Kong in the day’s second match at the Stade Delort in Marseille on Sunday.
A powerful second-half display saw Germany triumph over a side who were ranked eight places higher than them in the World Rugby Rankings going into the match.
Canada also made a winning start to the tournament as they bid to preserve their record of having appeared in every Rugby World Cup, scoring 10 tries in a 65-19 defeat of Kenya in which winger DTH van der Merwe scored the first hat-trick of his test career.
The action continues next Saturday, when Hong Kong will look to bounce back against Kenya at 13:00 local time (GMT+1) and Canada tackle Germany in a battle of the unbeaten teams at 16:00.
CANADA 65-19 KENYA
DTH van der Merwe scored the first hat-trick of his 53-test career as Canada began their campaign to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2019 with a comfortable 10-try defeat of Kenya.
Kenya had begun their first meeting with Canada a little nervously, seeing a clearance kick charged down and then a first scrum pushed back at an alarming rate after Gordon McRorie had given the Canucks the lead with a second-minute penalty.
They had a chance to settle their nerves but Darwin Mukidza pulled his effort across the posts after flanker Matt Heaton had been sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle. Losing a man, though, didn’t seem to affect Canada as they scored two tries in his absence, both from Kenyan turnovers.
First Theo Sauder chased his own kick and pressured the Kenyan chasers into another turnover, captain Phil Mack digging the ball out quickly to find Van der Merwe for his 33rd try in Canadian colours. The winger’s break set up the second, Mack finding second-row Brett Beukeboom in space on the blindside of a breakdown for his first test try.
Kenya did get on the scoreboard just before Heaton returned, a driving maul sucking in players to create space for full-back Tony Onyango to power over. They should have had a second after a good break by sevens star Collins Injera, but Samuel Oliech elected to throw a wayward pass rather than back himself to go over in the corner.
Van der Merwe grabbed his second try just before the half-hour mark following a break from Ben LeSage, but from the resulting restart Willy Ambaka climbed highest to claim the ball and Kenya hit back immediately when Leo Seje Owade dotted down Oliech’s grubber kick under the posts.
Oliech, showing his sevens background, drop-kicked the conversion to cut the deficit to eight points, but with the last action of the first half another Kenyan error saw Sauder score Canada’s bonus point try to send his side in leading 27-12.
Kenya emerged for the second half revitalised and got to within inches of the Canadian line twice before George Nyambua, the second-row who had a minute earlier been denied by great defence by Mack, powered over under the posts.
Once again a try was followed by a riposte by Canada, this time number eight Tyler Ardron impossible to stop from close range and another followed quickly with Sauder finishing off a training ground move for his second of the match, making it 39-19 with 25 minutes to play.
Buekeboom crashed over for Canada’s seventh try on the hour mark after taking an inside pass from Mack for his second of the day, before Michael Sheppard came off the bench to mark his test debut with a try that took the Canucks through the 50-point mark. A break by Ciaran Hearn released Matt Evans to run in another try before the hard-working Van der Merwe, who popped up everywhere – even in a maul, dotted down the final try to complete his hat-trick.
Canada captain Phil Mack: “It feels great to get the win, we know we need two more so for us it is just the beginning. Hats off to Kenya, they really made us tackle and they are super dangerous so we are just happy with the way we dealt with them, in the first half particularly and it is good to get a win.”
Kenya captain Davis Chenge: “Canada are a good side, they really brought the physicality to us. We tried our best to match them but they were the better side. The boys performed really well, they showed really good character, they never gave up which is a good sign for us. We are going back to the drawing board, work even hard and come back even harder and hopefully we will get a win in the next game.”
HONG KONG 9-26 GERMANY
Debutant Kurt Haupt and replacement Matthias Schosser scored second-half tries as Germany shocked top seeds Hong Kong in Mike Ford’s first game in charge of the team.
Raynor Parkinson converted both tries, the first coming while their opponents were down to 14 men, and kicked three penalties in addition to one from Christopher Hilsenbeck, while all nine of Hong Kong’s points came from the boot of fly-half Matt Rosslee.
Hong Kong possessed the most dangerous individual on the pitch in winger Salom Yiu Kam Shing, and it was the first of his four clean breaks in the first half that led to Hong Kong taking the lead against the run of play in the 11th minute.
Yiu Kam Shing took a pop pass from Rosslee at pace in midfield and raced 40 metres before being brought to ground. Hong Kong kept the ball through several phases and eventually forced a penalty which Rosslee slotted through the posts.
Soon after, Parkinson missed a straightforward attempt in front of goal, after Germany’s heavy pack had won a scrum penalty, but his next strike was much better, and the scores were level again with 23 minutes gone.
Another searing run from Yiu Kam Shing put Hong Kong into a good attacking position and Rosslee kicked the three points when the scrambling German defence was caught offside.
After a desperate last-ditch tackle by flanker Sebastian Ferreira had denied the lively Yiu Kam Shing, Germany kicked their second penalty in the 38th minute, Hilsenbeck stepping up in the temporary absence of Parkinson due to a facial injury.
Parkinson returned from the half-time break with tape wrapped around his nose, but the makeshift protection did not put him off as he kicked Germany into a 9-6 lead on 48 minutes.
Rosslee replied in kind shortly afterwards but, by now, Germany’s heavyweight forwards were starting to take an even firmer grip on the contest.
Parkinson’s third penalty put them 12-9 up with an hour gone and the match swung further in their favour when Hong Kong lost replacement forward Kane Boucaut to the sin-bin for illegally collapsing another impressive German maul.
Halfway through the sin-bin period, Germany struck the telling blow when Haupt, a powerful ball carrier throughout, handed off Thomas Lamboley and stormed over from 22 metres out, Parkinson converting to make it 19-9.
Hong Kong were unable to find a way back and Germany sealed victory in the closing stages when scrum-half Sean Armstrong gathered an overthrown Hong Kong lineout five metres out and Schosser crossed from a pick and go.
Germany captain Michael Poppmeier: “That was an extremely intense 80 minutes. The first 40 was a bit equal and then I think maybe our fitness got us towards the end, the last 20. Our subs came on and put in a massive effort. It was 100 per cent fight, as well as a little bit of belief and probably preparation.”
Hong Kong captain James Cunningham: “I am obviously really disappointed, we played some good rugby today but when it mattered we didn’t complete. We had a couple of knock-ons at crucial times in the game, we gave away too many penalties and that was all that Germany needed today to win the game. We can’t keep dwelling on this game, we have got to work hard for these next two games and see what happens with the other results. There were some really positive things that came out of the game and I’m really proud of the boys, but when push came to shove we just didn’t do what we needed to do to win the game.”