04 Mar 2018

Societe Generale Valley Black Ladies had to work hard to overcome game rustiness and a resilient Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers side in their 17-10 KPMG Women’s Premiership Grand Championships Semi-final victory today. The result sets up a familiar Final pairing as the other Semi-final saw ECO Gai Wu Falcons post a comfortable 11-try, 63-0 win over Transact 24 Tai Po.

Tigers began their match with the greater focus, and made good use of possession. Charlotte Myrans ran up an early three-point lead with a well-taken penalty from the right wing, around Valley’s 22 line.

A further 10 minutes of pressure was rewarded by another penalty, fed into a series of ruck phases followed by fast hands out to the right wing and Natasha Shangwe Olson-Thorne who found the corner. Another lengthy kick from Myrans added the extras for a 10-0 Tigers lead.

Into the game’s second quarter, and Valley picked up some momentum with three points off the boot of Zoe Smith. Further Valley forays were rewarded from a lineout on the Tigers 22, which fell to flanker Aroha Savage, who took it over the line. Two more points from Smith tied the score 10-10 at the break.

In the second half, Valley held the lion’s share of possession, but were largely kept out by a solid Tigers defensive line. However, on 50 minutes, Savage picked the ball from the back of a scrum on Tigers’ five-metre line and went over for her second try. Another two points from Smith sealed the scoreline.

Valley’s player-coach Bella Milo was pleased to get through a tricky match after the long break.

“It was a tough game,” she said. “Tigers defended well and made us work all the way. The first half showed we hadn’t had game time for the last few weeks. Then we found our groove and made the points to get us back in it before the break.

“We learned our lesson and in the second half we built on the momentum we made. “Our forwards played really well.  They were dominant in our scrum, and in our lineout. We’ll take the win but it was hard one,” she added.

Milo is eager to get her squad back to preparing for what would be a fourth consecutive Grand Championship title.

“We’ve got a short turnaround. Now it’s back to the drawing board to get ready for next week’s match. The trophy doesn’t have our name on it yet and I’m only hoping that we can go through and keep up what we were doing right today,” she said after the game.

Tigers’ Fan Shun Kei saw the match as one that got away, but nonetheless declared himself pleased with his side’s accomplishments this season.

“We made a very positive start and controlled the first part of the first half.  We were getting the ball out wide quickly and that’s why they struggled. Natasha played a very important role, maintaining the momentum.  Later our forwards were playing more kick and go, taking easy options instead of going wide. Then Valley were able to stop us playing the ball,” suggested Fan.

“In the second half, when we had the ball, we were too rushed. Every time we got the ball, we’d make a mistake and gift it back to Valley. Under their pressure we didn’t use the ball efficiently.”

Philosophical but quietly determined, Fan believes his side have a lot more to give.

“We defended very well all through – it was such a big difference to previous games and exactly the foundation I wanted. I was very pleased, especially with Maelle [Picut] and Lara [Schats],” he said.

“The game could have been ours if we’d stuck to the plan. Valley kept it alive on our mistakes.”

“So in the end it was another learning experience.  We lifted our game, and we made them fight for 80 minutes. It was one of our best games this season, and you could say we were unlucky, but our players can take a lot of positives from this game,” he smiles. “Hopefully next year we can come back faster and stronger.”

Perhaps a result that maximised satisfaction on both sides then, ahead of a KPMG Women’s Premiership Grand Championship final that mirrors recent years, but still promises to be a thriller, next Saturday.