16 Jul 2017

Japan retained their Asia Women’s Rugby Championship title after beating Hong Kong 60-19 tonight at Kings Park.

Japan swept Hong Kong to win the regional championship and claim anearly edge in the Women’s Rugby World Cup stakes with both teams set to make their debut at the world championship next month in Ireland.

Hong Kong coach Jo Hull was left disappointed after the tie, but saw glimmers of progress from her side’s performance.

“It was another disappointing result, and obviously we aren’t happy with that, but there was some positives compared to last week’s loss in Japan.

“Our defence was good for parts of the game, as was our commitment and physicality in the contact area. Our performance at the breakdown was good and I think we improved in the set piece and were carrying the ball a bit better than last week.

“At times we were building goodmomentum in our attack, but there were some real individual errors that cost us quite dearly.

“We are disappointed, but at the same time we needed that game,because the next time we play it will be against Canada at the World Cup,” said Hull.

Hong Kong are pooled with Canada, runners-up at the last World Cup, as well as four-time champions New Zealand and Wales next month.

Hong Kong again allowed Japan a quick start with the visitors racking up 24 points in the first 30 minutes, with one-on-one tackling a problem area for the hosts early on. Outside of the one-on-one contests, Hong Kong were much improved at the breakdown, but struggled to gel on attack in the opening stages with the interchange between scrumhalf Ho Mak-yee and fly-half Rose Hopewell-Fong an issue early on.

Captain Chow Mei-nam put Hong Kong on the board in the 30thminute, finishing off a solid patch of play by crashing over the line from second phase ball, after Hong Kong won an attacking line-out on Japan’s five-metres.Winger Aggie Poon Pak-yan added the difficult conversion from along the right touchline to bring the score to 24-7.

But Hong Kong failed to hold the line over the last ten minutes, allowing a momentum-sapping try shortly before half-time to push the score to 31-7.

Hong Kong came flying out of the blocs in the second half asexperienced scrumhalf Sham Wai-sum came on to good effect, helping to inject some fluidity into the attack.

Winger Chong Ka-yan capped that early momentum by opening up the Japanese defence in the 42nd minute to bring the score to 31-14 after Hopewell-Fong’s conversion.

But Japan had more than enough in reply; scoring two tries over the next ten minutes to widen the lead to 38-14.

In the 56th minute, Japan’s No.8 Maki Takano was shown a yellow card for repeated infringement and the veteran Sham capitalized quickly on the extra space, darting over for a try in the right corner in the 58th minute. Poon missed the conversion from the touchline, leaving Hong Kong trailing 38-19.

Japan came back to score three more tries in the final quarter to extend their margin to 60-19 and claim a second straight Asian title.

The loss left Hull with much to think about ahead of next month’s World Cup.

“Full credit to Japan, they played very well and are coming along nicely. They are always clinical but today they were very accurate and played at good pace. I think they will do well at the World Cup,and we hope they do, as we are all representing Asia at the end of the day.

“For us, we have a good idea of our selection for the World Cup and today and last week was about getting those players some game time.”

Hullsingled out two up and coming young players in 21-year old flanker Agnes Chan Tsz-ching and 18-year old centre Kelsie Bouttle – both of whom marked just their second caps tonight.

“Agnes played well, as did Kelsie. That was the second cap for both of them and I think we have a couple of exciting young players coming through there,” said Hull.

“We’ve identified what is working well and what isn’t, and we aren’t going to change what we are doing. We will keep emphasizing the things that are important to us. We’ve been working hard on our game and our fitness and now we need to start transferring that to actual matches.

“Over the next few weeks, we just need to try and improve in those little areas that are holding us back. We just need to keep believing in ourselves and keep working on what we can control,” said Hull.

The 28-woman squad selected for the World Cup will be publicly announced next Saturday (22 July) at Kings Park at 13.00.