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Newcomers Tonga steal 2018 HKRL Nines glory

The Tonga Representative team has been crowned HKRL Nines Champions after a highly-charged weekend of rugby league at King’s Park Sports Ground, Kowloon. Unbeaten in the group stages, Tonga set up an evenly-matched final against Pacific Toa and rose to a 12-6 victory.

Match report by Tommy Lee

To the delight of the packed crowd along the touchlines, this year’s Redsip HKRL Nines offered a series of fast-paced, hard-fought games between eight domestic and international outfits, with players old and new from many different corners of the rugby world battling it out to be crowned 2018 champions.

Decisive semi-finals

Pacific Toa was the first team of the tournament to qualify for the final, after overturning reigning champions and Papua New Guinean representatives the Diamond Chiefs in a semi-final that turned out to be one of the most enthralling games of the day. The experienced Chiefs outfit got on the scoreboard early against Toa through an unconverted try down the right wing, which came off the back of some simple, effective rugby and completed sets. Conversely, Toa chose to employ the tactics of chancing their arm against a team who predominantly play the game down the middle of the park.

In the second semi-final, Tonga, who hadn’t conceded a single point throughout the entire competition, were up against the Wave Wearers. In the first half alone, the Tongans crossed the whitewash five times – two of which were bonus tries (a try under the sticks awards five points in Nines). Captain Sinone Vea ran circles around the Wearers all game, who were given little to no opportunity to create anything in attack thanks to an absolutely dominant display from Tonga. The score stood at 41-0, in a game which didn’t necessarily reflect the Wearers’ strong effort throughout the tournament.

A treat for spectators

Video: Watch Hong Kong Pacific Toa’s Pasefika Siva Tau and Tonga National Rugby League’s Sipi Tau

The final kicked off much in a similar vein to the rest of the tournament – with Tonga once again proving their dominance with a simple converted try down the left edge in their very first attacking set. But Toa were not about to give up lightly. For the first time all day, Tonga conceded a try almost immediately after they got on the scoreboard themselves – game on. Tonga soon realised they were in for a real battle against the Hong Kong side, and an arm wrestle ensued for the remainder of the first half. At just six points apiece, both teams were proving to the crowd why they were the two best teams in the tournament.

In the second half, once again, Toa made a deliberate effort to take their opponents on out wide, rather than being dragged into a battle down the middle, and held a strong defence on multiple occasions. With just minutes left on the clock, a cross-field kick was caught on the Toa wing for what looked a clear winner, but was eventually pulled back by the referee for an apparent knock-on over the try line. In the following set, the smart Tonga outfit immediately capitalised on a brief lapse in concentration on the Toa side and raced the length of the field after breaking the line to score the match-winner.

Women’s North claim inaugural Nines victory

This year, for the very first time, HKRL hosted a North vs South Battle of Origin with the Wanchai Stadium Women’s Nines, eventually won by the North side (coach Jason Yip, captain Lynda Nazer) in a hard-fought battle which ended 15-5.

Video: Watch the reactions after the first ever Wanchai Stadium Women’s Nines

Coach Jason Yip said, “History was made on Sunday! It was a great game from everyone and we’re obviously very happy to take home the trophy in this very first year of women’s rugby league in Hong Kong. This is no doubt the beginning of a long future for the sport here and I look forward seeing what comes next!

Full Results

Pitch 1   Pitch 2
Tonga 19 V 0 Pacific Toa Diamond Chiefs 4 V 0 Broncos
Charlie Bears 16 V 11 Oreana Storm
Wave Wearers 20 V 0 Coastal Cobras Diamond Chiefs 19 V 0 Oreana Storm
Charlie Bears 8 V 18 Broncos
Pacific Toa 14 V 0 Wave Wearers Coastal Cobras 0 V 36 Tonga
Diamond Chiefs 30 V 7 Charlie Bears Broncos 10 V 0 Oreana Storm
Wave Wearers 0 V 18 Tonga Pacific Toa 23 V 0 Coastal Cobras
Women’s North (Winner)    15 V 5   Women’s South
Quarter finals 1A: Diamond Chiefs 23 V 0 4B: Coastal Cobras 1B: Tonga 42 V 0 4A: Oreana Storm
2A: Broncos 4 V 20 3B: Wave Wearers 2B: Pacific Toa 15 V 4 3A: Charlie Bears
Semi Finals Diamond Chiefs 4 V 6 Pacific Toa Tonga 41 V 0 Wave Wearers
Final Pacific Toa   6 V 12   Tonga (Winner)


Hong Kong Rugby League 2018 Nines Champions – Tonga

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