Photo credit: Rugby World Cup 2019/VCG Photo
In a must-win tie in order to keep their World Cup qualification dreams alive, a late onslaught from Hong Kong proved sufficient to see them to a relatively comfortable 42-17 triumph over a plucky Kenya.
The final scoreline undoubtedly belied a tightly-contested first-half; despite spending most of the first-half camped in Kenyan territory, a new-look Hong Kong with 12 personnel changes fell to a 12-0 deficit 23 minutes in, perhaps unsettled by their opponent's tendency to thrive on an open game with plenty of turnovers all around.
A series of early substitutions proved a fillip for Leigh Jones' charges, with the introduction of Thomas Lamboley and Jack Parfitt allowing Hong Kong to find a foothold in the game.
Mercurial winger Max Denmark set the ball rolling by chasing down a Ben Rimene kick and crossing the line, clawing back a crucial 7 points before the half-time break.
Rimene's kicking was to become a tactical feature, pegging Kenya back and leading to a line-out from which Nick Hewson was left free to send his side into a 14-12 lead.
Toby Fenn soon added another as Hong Kong wore their opponents down after 14 phases, with a further three tries coming from Lamboley's brace and Lewis Warner's first test try earning a bonus point for scoring four tries or more.
Photo credit: South China Morning Post
Saturday's result marked Hong Kong's third successive win over Kenya, setting up arguably their biggest challenge of the season against Canada.
“We are going to have to match them up front in the forwards, which will be difficult. They have a very impressive tight five and some good ball carriers," said Jones.
The magnitude of Hong Kong's task is compounded by having to both deny the Canadians their third bonus point so far, while clinching one of their own.
“It will take a massive effort and some hard work to match the up front, but we are coming in pretty fresh, considering we’ve had two tests and two warm-up matches," he added.
"It could be our last game of the season and we need to come in absolutely fizzing with energy."