Lions beat Dragons in Hong Kong Women’s Super Series match

13 May 2017

Japan beat Hong Kong 16-0 today to claim the Asia Rugby Championship 2017 title. Hong Kong will now battle for second place against South Korea, whom they face in a home and away series with games in South Korea on 27 May and at Hong Kong Football Club on 3 June.

After keeping Japan off balance in a 29-17 loss last week in Tokyo, the visitors returned the favour this afternoon as they methodically increased a 3-0 half-time lead in a dominant second half performance.

Despite coming away with no points on the table from its two matches against Japan, Hong Kong continued to demonstrate that it is making strides since the advent of the professional era locally with theinception of the Elite Rugby Programme in late 2015.

The first half was evenly poised with both sides trading opportunities, but neither having anything in the way of points on the board to show for it. Japan broke the impasse in the 29th minute whenfly half Takuya Yamasawa slotted a penalty from 40 metresto give the visitors a 3-0 leadathalftime.

The visitors put in the better second half performance, coming out of the block sharper than Hong Kong, whose early unforced errors helped Japan widen the margins in the opening ten minutes.Yamasawa slotted his second penalty in the 42nd minute to extend Japan’s lead to six, before winger Amanaki Lotoahea crossed over for the match’s only try just four minutes later.

Lotoahea’s try went to the television match official after Japanese ref Akihisa Aso couldn’t confirm that the towering winger had retained possession after looking as if he touched down ahead of the line. The try was eventually awarded and Yamasawa added theconversion to extend Japan’s lead to 13-nil.

Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones was empathetic about the disputed try saying, “Having experience in Japan myself, I understand that the referee was under tremendous pressure and I feel for him but I think those pressures were evident in his performance today.”

Defensively Hong Kong held strong in the closing stages, but failed to muster much in the way of attack in the face of a stifling Japanese defensive effort and a tactically superior kicking game.

Yamasawa added a third penalty in the 65th minute to conclude the scoring at 16-0.

“It was a funny old game,” said Jones, who seemed to expect more from both sides. “I’m slightly disappointed by the game as a spectacle. Neither side really played did they? But all credit to Japan, they strangled us in that second half.”

Jones credited his front row once again for creating a stable platform but was left ruing his side’s inability to involve what is a dangerous back-line more in the attack.

“That second half shows we still have some deficiencies, especially in our lack of power and lack of go-forward, backed up by a pretty ordinary kicking game. In certain areas we need a bit more zip, a bit more panache so we can break the game up a bit.

“We couldn’t get any territory in the second half to pose a threat, but I think that says more about their performance than ours. They knew they were in for a game after last week and today was more about them stepping up than us stepping back.

“We were losing these games by sixty points a year ago. It was a real game last week and a real game this week, so we are going in the right direction,” Jones added.

That progress will need to be maintained as Hong Kong battle it out for second against South Korea, who managed to collect the first bonus point against Japan since the inception of the new-format Asian championship in 2008. That bonus point has South Korea better placed on the table and leaves Hong Kong needing to perform to wrest the runners-up mantle from them.

“We’ve had two games and we’ve lost two, but we’ve made tremendous strides. There is pressure on us now to get those results against Korea.They picked up the bonus point so we need to get two wins over Korea.It’s going to be tough. They have improved as have we, so it will be an interesting game in two weeks time,” Jones added.

Super Series match meets objectives for Hong Kong Women’s Team

In today’s Hong Kong Women’s National team Super Series match played as a curtain-raiser to the Japan test, the Lions beat the Dragons 30-3.

The Lions jumped out to an 18-3 lead at the break after fullback Aggie Poon Pak-yan slotted an early penalty followed by a try from centre Rebecca Thompson. Poon added a second penalty later in the half before winger Laurel Chor extended the tally to 16 with a try, which Poon converted.

Fly half Rose Hopewell-Fong accounted for the Dragons’ only score with a penalty midway through the opening half.Chor completed her brace in the second half with winger Chong Ka-yan also adding a try, which Poon converted, to finish the scoring at 30-3.

The match was designed to be an important part of the selection process for Hong Kong’s tour of Spain later this month and those objectives were met for Hong Kong coach Jo Hull.

“The girls put a lot of effort into that game, which is what we wanted to see and it gave us a chance to look at some of the different combinations we wanted to trial,” said Hull.

“Overall, the tempo and what they were trying to do was not too badand in some respects we saw what we have been working on in training, particularly in our defence and our line-speed. I was a bit disappointed in certain areas like the breakdown and the set piece but we are still three months out, so we weren’t expecting to get the complete performance we want yet,” Hull added.

Hong Kong will slim down the 45-woman training squad to 32 for the final week of training this week before cutting to a final 26 for the tour to Spain prior to departing on 26 May.

“Today helped us confirm some of our selections and some new people put their hands up, which is good to see.

“Most importantly, if you look at the standard of the game compared to where we were this time a year ago, and factoring in that some of theseplayers have come up from the U19s, I think they did very well today,” concluded Hull.