11 Nov 2017

In the second match of today’s KPMG Women’s Rugby Day at King’s Park, Societe Generale Valley showed that they are indisputably the complete package, overcoming traditional foesEco Gai Wu Falcons 32-5, although conceding a first try of the whole KPMG Women’s Premiership campaign.

The single-venue dayran as a preview of the post-break Premiership / Premiership Development split, with two matches from each grouping. Joining Valley and Gai Wu in the top half will be Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers, who beat fourth-placed Natixis HKFC Ice 10-7to snatch therunners-up spot from Gai Wu at the stage close.League newcomers Transact 24 Tai Po Dragons notched their third win, 32-3 over Comvita City Sparkle, to end the stage topping the lower half, while Kowloon Ladies picked up their second success in three matches, 37-7 against SCAA First Pacific Causeway Bay, to match Dragons’ 13 points but behind them with fewer games won.

The headline contest began with an intense first quarter in whichValley were kept largely on the back foot by their nearest rivals.The deadlock was broken on 26 minutes when Valley’s player-coach, former Samoa international Bella Milo, received a turnover ball from her captain Aroha Savage and put down in the right corner. With more possession, Valley picked up the momentum and quick hands out to the left wing saw teenager Jessica Eden go over for a 10-0 lead.

As the half drew to a close, Gai Wu’s classy New Zealand debutant Greer Muir, playing at outside centre, brought them back into the game, collecting the ball from broken play and neatly stepping inside to put down, for 10-5.

A quarter-hour of to-and-fro play after the restart displayed the determination of both sides, including more good work from Muir, with a break through the Valley line and run from centre field, only to be held up a body-length from the line.

It was quick thinking by Valley’sMilo thatsignalled her side’s tightening hold on the game, seizing the ball from the back of Gai Wu scrum and placing in the right corner. Two minutes later, an interception and 60-metre run-and-score by her outside centre Kelsie Bouttle, and conversion by Zoe Smith, took them out to a 22-5 lead.

The mid-half flurry by Valley continued with a timely kick into space on the left by Smith that bounced up nicely for Savage just outside the 22, for her to carry over. Gai Wu gamely fought on but it was replacement Rebecca Thompson who brought up the final points for Valley, on 30 minutes, showing speed and movement to break clean through the Gai Wu line and score on the left.

Valley coach and key player Bella Milo conceded that Gai Wu contained them well early on.

“The first 20 [minutes] were tough. It was hard for us to get into the game and that was 100 percent about the breakdown. We committed too many people too much of the time, and that turned our defence to shreds. We didn’t get up fast enough to reload and so we weren’t putting phases together. We were lucky they didn’t run it wide on their turnover ball,” said Milo, clearly not resting on the laurels of the win or a 433-8 for-and-against points total for the half-season.

She valued the game as a chance to readjust to a tougher level of play, especially early on when the team had to respond on the fly to a resilient defence, and handle a pacier and more connected attack than in recent games, ahead of the more competitive environment coming up after the break.

Milo praised her front five for their work ethic and especially credited replacements Jasmine Cheung and Thompson for their impact on the game.

“Overall, Gai Wu were probably fitter, but we took our opportunities,” she concluded.

Gai Wu coach Lai Yiu Pang got the tough game he was expecting, if not the close result, and he saw the need and the opportunity for his side to develop further.

“We played 15 minutes of good rugby – the opening period of the first half was really close. But then we started making silly mistakes, under Valley’s pressure. We made some bad decisions and that is something we will have to work on in training,” said Lai.

But Lai was pleased by the performance of Muir, recently part of the Black Ferns Wider TrainingSquad.

“Her game and ability are above the level we are used to. Our players couldn’t react quickly enough to meet her play, and she is still learning our team patterns. But she has the defensive awareness, speed, and ability to break through the opposition line that can be a real asset for us. As a team, we have to adjust to being more game based, less focused on individual skill, and we have to pick up our game intensity.” he said, reckoning that his team’s lack of consistent focus and ability to monitor the whole game around them had cost them in the second half.