10 Jan 2020

Societe Generale Valley and Gai Wu Falcons kick off the stretch run to the grand championships on Saturday when they meet in the KPMG Premiership game of the week at 16.30 at Happy Valley. Natixis HKFC host Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers at 18.00 in Saturday’s other Top 4 action as Hong Kong’s premier women’s teams hunt for Premiership league glory.

Bloomberg HK Scottish Kukris face off with Kerry Hotel Kowloon at the EDUHK grounds at 14.30 on Saturday while SCAA First Pacific Causeway Bay meet the challenge from Transact24 Tai Po Dragons at 18.00 at KGV in Saturday’s Premiership A action.

The action will be intense in Happy Valley when Gai Wu visits Valley in a clash between Hong Kong’s two most successful women’s sides of the last decade.

Valley extended its unbeaten streak into 2020 with a perfect record of three wins and one draw ahead of the break. That total has them on 17 points, eight ahead of third ranked Gai Wu and seven in font of second placed Tigers with two rounds remaining.

It is a familiar position for the perennial league titlists who are once again the odds on favourite for the double in 2020. Another league title looks assured, but despite being in a similarly commanding position a, Valley has been pipped in the grand final game for the last two seasons running, by Gai Wu in 2017 and by Tigers last season.

Player coach Bella Milo is intent on ensuring that last-second slide will not reoccur to start the next decade.

“The main thing for us is to produce consistent performances each week from here on in. That includes maintaining our competitive levels at training and not being complacent in anything we do,” said Milo who expects to see renewed intensity on Saturday in the clash with Falcons.

“We need a result this weekend to seal the league title, which for us means a lot. If we can get the positive performance that we are looking for this weekend, it will help determine how we attack the last three games into the Grand finals,” Milo added.

The uber competitive Milo is demanding her side step up to the challenge after falling at the final hurdle for the past two seasons.

“We all learnt a hard lesson last year in the finals and we are aware of that and are better prepared this year. Preparation is key. If the coaching team does our homework well and prepares the players well week to week leading into the semis and finals, we are in a good position.”

That confidence is not shared by Falcons coach ‘Sailo’ Lai Yiu-pang, who has continued to stress long-term results over short-term silverware this season.

“We have spent all season developing our second tier players through game exposure. We have not had much choice with our national teams players’ commitments making availability issues that much worse this season.”

Lai is hoping that with his international strength returning they will be able to quickly gel with his emerging cadre.

“The return of the Hong Kong players can help us put a focus on the last few games of the season, if they can help lift the performance of some of the less experienced girls, we can make the Grand Championship final.”

Lai has been plotting a slow burn all season as he has positioned his team for the final stretch run as per their Grand Championship win in 2017, when they patiently stalked Valley through the league campaign, before springing their first win over the red and black in the last game of the year.

But the emergence of Tigers as a force last season has made their traditional rivalry a three-legged race and Lai know that they will have to best Tigers to reach the grand final.

The two side have had similar struggles with availability and injury this season, but with Valley in the driving seat for the league title and the top seed for the Grand Championship play-offs, superiority amongst the runners-up will need to be resolved first.