10 Mar 2018

ECO Gai Wu Falcons added the Grand Championship silverware to their league title after defeating Societe Generale Valley 31-10 in today’s KPMG Premiership Grand Final. The win gives Falcons their first KPMG Women’s Premiership league and championship double since the 2012/13 season.

The two sides having featured in six of the past sevens Grand Finals with Valley enjoying the run of play in the last three seasons.

Gai Wu scored five tries as they pulled out from a 12-0 lead at the break to eventually amass a 24-0 buffer late in the match. Fly half BB Lee Tsz-ting accounted for 16 of Gai Wu’s points after scoring in each half and adding three conversions.

Fittingly for the two top rivals in Hong Kong women’s rugby - and a final that featured 11 members of the Hong Kong national team that qualified for the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup - it was an evenly contested first half with both sides exchanging blows early on, but the defences held strong.

The opening stages were primarily played between the 22-metres with both sides enjoying chances but the first break came for the Falcons after Valley centre Tanya Young was sin-binned in the 26th minute.
It was all the difference that Gai Wu’s forwards would need as they took advantage of the extra space to drive deep into Valley’s half.

Valley’s first up defence held strong, forcing a ruck in the far corner, but a clever shift of direction by Gai Wu scrumhalf Sham Wai-sum put fly-half Lee into a seam behind the Valley defence.
The Hong Kong no.10 showed a clean pair of heels to sprint the last few metres and dive over the line for Gai Wu’s first try. Lee converted her own score to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead.

The three-time defending league and grand champions Valley conceded another crucial penalty shortly after returning to full strength as they were pinged for going straight to ground at the ruck. Lee’s penalty attempt came up short, but the Valley defence bobbled the take, knocking the ball on beneath their posts to give Gai Wu an attacking scrum five metres from the Valley line.
No.8 Angela Chan Ka-yan did well to corral the ball at the back of the scrum and Falcons carried the ball for three phases before scoring in the corner, with Sham coming up with the try this time to extend Gai Wu’s lead to 12-0 after Lee’s conversion was missed.

Valley found themselves in the unfamiliar position of trailing to start the second half and their discombobulation continued after Gai Wu continued their torrid start when play resumed.

Falcons wing Aggie Poon Pak-yan ventured off her line to devastating effect on several occasions after the break, while the direct running lines of centre Greer Muir helped to keep the Valley defence off balance.

In the 43rd minute Poon perfectly timed a run off the opposite wing to enter the line between Sham and Lee. Poon’s pace turned a half-gap in the defence into a long meandering run that brought the Falcons attack to Valley’s doorstep.

Poon offloaded the ball in contact to her onrushing forwards, who executed some methodical attacks around the fringes of the ruck to inch ever closer to the try-line before Hong Kong prop Tammy Lau crashed over the line, extending Gai Wu’s advantage to 19 points after Lee’s conversion.

Lee collected her brace in the 58th minute after Falcons backed themselves twice in opting for scrums rather than two kickable penalties.

The Falcons pack was up to the challenge at scrum-time and Gai Wu found space along the left-hand side again, with Lee popping up deep with the ball to score her second try in the corner. Lee’s conversion was unsuccessful, but Gai Wu held a commanding 24-0 lead with twenty minutes remaining.

Valley wing Nadia Cuvelier scored her first of two second half tries in the 62nd minute after she finished off a 70-metre break started by centre Zoe Smith to put Valley on the board at 24-5.

But before Valley could build any momentum, winger Chong Ka-yan flashed some individual brilliance for Falcons, selling a magnificent dummy deep in her own half to create space for an 80 metre solo try as Gai Wu extended their lead to 31-5.

Cuvelier replied with her second tally of the game in the 78th minute, but it would prove nothing more than consolation for Valley who saw their Grand Championship and league winning streak ended by Falcons this season.

Falcons coach “Sailo” Lai Yiu-pang hailed his side’s collective effort, saying, “What made me most proud today was the effort we put in as a team. We put our bodies on the line and you can see from the scoreline how effective we were.

“I was surprised by the margin at the end. Like everyone, I expected a closer game, but I think our determination made the difference. We played better as a team,” said Lai.

Lai also credited the new league structure for his team’s improvements on the season.

“The new structure was good for us as it helped us develop our young girls early in the season when our sevens girls were away on the series. That was really a good chance for us to develop our depth.”

Hong Kong coach Jo Hull agreed with Lai’s take on the season just past saying, “It has been the most competitive season we have had in Hong Kong. Last week’s semi-finals and today’s final show that the split in the league is really working. We have had some really competitive games in both brackets.

“That final just proves this even more. The first half was very even and I think in the second half Gai Wu’s experience came through. I wasn't surprised because Gai Wu was building all season long.

“Their forwards were immense today, especially Tammy, and BB had a great game at 10 as well. Valley dipped a bit in the middle, but they have a lot of new players, so I wasn’t massively surprised. They showed their class towards the end of the game in coming back into it which is another good sign,” Hull added.