12 Jan 2018

Societe Generale Valley will face off against CPM Gai Wu Falcons in this week’s HKRU KPMG Women’s Premiership game of the week tomorrow at Aberdeen Stadium (16.30).

The battle of Hong Kong’s two top women’s rugby outfits highlights a full day of women’s rugby action with Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers tackle Natixis HKFC Ice at Kings Park (18.00) in the other match in the four-team KPMG Women’s Premiership following November’s split in the leagues to an elite and a development competition.

KPMG Women’s Development Premiership action features SCAA First Pacific CWB Phoenix taking on Kowloon at Shek Kip Mei (15.00) while Transact 24 Tai Po Dragons play Comvita City Sparkle at the same ground at 16.30.

All eyes will be on Valley and Gai Wu as they resume their traditional runs to the Grand Championships jockeying for top spot in the league.

Valley enjoy the league lead with a perfect 3-0 record and 14 points on the table since the split in the competition, while Falcons are in second on 11 points, with a 2-1 record, their only loss coming to Valley in a 21-14 thriller.

Both sides are returning to full strength after the break, with Falcons looking forward to the season debut of Hong Kong ace Christy Cheng Ka-chi after she was sidelined with an elbow injury at the Women’s Rugby World Cup last summer, while Valley will welcome the return of its own Hong Kong star in forward Amelie Seure, who looks set to return to action in the coming weeks.

The Falcons will also be looking to ease Cheng and Seure’s Hong Kong sevens squad teammate Melody Li Nim-yan back into action after a lengthy injury lay-off.

‘Sailo’ Lai Yiu-pang, coach of Gai Wu is happy with the way his side has been preparing to start the final season push.

“Training last night was really good. It’s always difficult getting every one back into performance mode but everyone put their hands up and got back to business.

“Both teams will probably take a little time to get their fitness levels up to peak so it’s all about how much determination the players on both sides have to win on Saturday. They have to transfer that intensity into the game situation.

“It’s going to be 80 minutes of tough rugby, so we need to be ready to play the whole game, not just show up for a half or fade out for 10 or 20 minutes. Last time against Valley, we had plenty of opportunities but we made too many mistakes, so we will have to play smart.

“We have to avoid making the mistakes that give away penalties, and we need to build up our momentum and hold control for good periods,” Lai added.

Valley coach Bella Milo is also leery of any residual holiday rust ahead of the crucial tie.

“It’s been a long break and I think the girls are going to take a little bit to get out of the Christmas mode. It’s now about getting our shape for Saturday. Everyone is a bit cautious about how they will perform and how their bodies will hold up.

“It’s going to be another tough game – it always is with Gai Wu. This weekend is a big game to kick off the new year and anything can happen. From what I’ve seen before Christmas, anyone [of the four teams in the elite Premiership division] can win. It’ll be interesting and exciting to watch,” said Milo.

Valley will be looking to make another statement of its status as the top side in Hong Kong against Gai Wu, but Milo is aware of some fixes that still need to be made.

“We want to go out and win our set pieces, especially our lineout, which has been troublesome recently. Before Christmas we were a little bit inconsistent with our player line-up, which hurt our performances. It would be good to have a consistent squad available each week, but that’s still a bit of an issue for us, so we will be looking to stabilise the squad in the weeks following.”

From the three-time successive Grand Champions, riding a 51-game winning streak, that will come as ominous news for the other sides in the competition.

The split into an elite and premiership competition has been a positive one for Kowloon who currently nest second behind Tai Po in the development league table with a 2-1 record after romps over Causeway Bay and City in the early going after the break.

Kowloon’s only loss since the split has come against first-placed Dragons who have a perfect 3-0 record since November. Causeway Bay are in third place with five points with Sparkle still chasing a first win in the development competition.