‘Freak accident’ fells HK junior star

Alvin Sallay

Promising young flyhalf Ben Kende has been left immobilised with a serious neck injury after ‘a freak accident’ at the Asian Junior Championship in Bangkok.

Kende, 18, was injured in the first five minutes of the opening game against Malaysia last Sunday. He was taken to a hospital where he underwent two operations and remains in stable condition.

‘He was hurt in an innocuous tackle situation. It was really a freak accident,’ a Hong Kong Rugby Football Union spokesman said yesterday. ‘He has had two operations to decompress the injury in his neck and stabilise the joints. We hope to repatriate him as soon as possible.’

It is believed that someone had accidentally stepped on Kende’s neck. Some reports have suggested that it will be a few months before he can walk again.

His parents, Jenny and Peter, who rushed to his bedside, issued a statement saying: ‘It has been a tough six days. We thank everybody in the Hong Kong rugby community for their messages of support.’

Kende has been earmarked as a potential pivot for the senior team in the future. The talented Island School student showed his class last season when he steered CBRE Hong Kong Football Club to the First Division Grand Championship title.

Playing at full-back, Kende knocked over two magnificent late penalties to give the club a nail-biting 16-14 win over arch-rivals Tradition Valley. His cool-as-a-cucumber conversions denied Valley the double.

Kende said later: ‘I told myself, ‘Head down and straight through,’ just like the other one I had just kicked. I went through my routine, and it was unbelievable when I saw it go through.’

Hong Kong are defending their title at the under-20s tournament in Bangkok. The team have responded superbly to the traumatic turn of events, and have progressed to the final against Japan today. They hung on to record a 24-17 win over Malaysia before defeating hosts Thailand 18-12 on Wednesday.