Womens Premiership Preview – 18 February, 2017

The Women’s Premiership comes to a close with a climactic battle between the top two sides, Valley Black and Gai Wu Falcons, at Happy Valley (16.30).

Valley will be looking to conclude a third straight unbeaten season with a win over Gai Wu and stretch their record to 39 straight league wins over three seasons, including Grand Championship play.

Despite Valley’s historic run, Gai Wu still has a mathematical chance at capturing league honours for the first time since 2013. A bonus point win for the Falcons (while keeping Valley out of the bonus) would hand them the league title on points differential.

Valley is currently top of the table with 54 points. Gai Wu’s only loss this year came against Valley (28-3 in November) leaving them on 10 wins (49 points) and with the better points differential (+29).

Valley coach James Elliot accepts the possibility of losing the league on points, but stresses that two forfeitures this season account for the points differential.

“We have had two forfeits awarded, [league rules allow for 20-0 wins in case of forfeiture], against Football Club and Causeway Bay. We would have expected to post more than 20 points in those games but we are at a deficit now in terms of the differentials,” Elliot acknowledged.

Elliot knows that the easiest solution is a win and he insists his side is well grounded ahead of Saturday’s clash, saying, “Our focus is to win the game and win the league. We’re going to go out and play Valley rugby and win. This is something that we were very clear about in training this week.

“It’s going to be a terrific game. Last time we played them, it was 3-0 at half-time, a big battle. Gai Wu have got great attacking weapons, with more national squad players than any other club,” Elliot added.

Valley are a close second in the number of current and former internationals suiting up with nine Hong Kong and other internationals in the squad for Saturday.

“This will be the toughest match of the season. We’re up for it and I’m sure Gai Wu are too. It’ll be big. It’ll be intense,” Elliot promised. “It will be a really big day for Women’s rugby. It’s great for women’s rugby to have good, competitive games like this,” he added.

Elliot is expecting the battle to again be intense and is looking to his capable back row to offer the edge. “As usual, there will be a lot of action up front, but we both have very good back lines. Both teams have players that can steal the ball. For us, Olivia Coady, Amelie Seure and Toto Cheng will be key. Toto is everywhere on the field and packs a lot of firepower in her small frame,” said Elliot.

Injuries to two of the Falcons’ sevens stars, Aggie Poon Pak-yan and Melody Li Nim-yan, will make Gai Wu’s task that much harder. Angela Chan Ka-yan is also unavailable due to work commitments while Hong Kong front rower Tammy Lau Sze-wah, a lynchpin of the club’s impressive forward pack, is also under injury cloud but is expected to play. Despite the hits to his numbers, Gai Wu coach Lai Yiu-pang is confident in his side’s abilities.

“We’ve got a real chance to win, the target is quite clear. We have to play with 100 percent confidence. We have to play what we train and focus on what we can do, not on the players who are not available.”

Success rides on fundamentals and a fast start for Lai. “If we can get the fundamentals right, we will have a platform to build on. The key is to keep our defence strong and build our attack from there. Valley are strong across the pitch, so we have to be at our best.

“I think whoever gets into the game faster will have the momentum to secure the result. It’s all about getting into the game early on.” Lai, who has been focusing on balancing his attack this season, believes the pieces are coming together in time for another Grand Championship push.

“We’ve got a pretty big forward pack, with quite a few national team players, who bring a lot of experience and energy to our play in that part of the field. In the past, we built our play primarily around our forwards, but this season, we’ve got our wings involved more and are more balanced,” added Lai.

This time last year, Gai Wu were in third place in the league before meeting Valley in the final week of the season, a heavy loss where Valley’s Coady scored five tries. But Gai Wu nearly turned the tables on Valley in a hugely entertaining grand final that came down to the final seconds.

Lai will be looking for that spirit once again: “We’ve talked a lot about the need to play consistent rugby, at the level that we played at in the grand final. There are games where we put 90 points on the board this season, but that doesn’t help us when we play Valley or Tigers, who are the real challenge.

“The key is how we transfer our play and performance in previous games into this crunch match.”

In other Premiership action, third-placed USRC Tigers head to Sports Road for a tie with fourth-ranked HKFC Ice, while CWB Phoenix host City Sparkle at So Kon Po (both at 18.00).

See the full weekend fixture here

Additional reporting and images: HK Rugby

 

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Women’s Rugby Fixtures – 18 February, 2017

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Match Report: CWB Phoenix 15-12 USRC Tigers

In one of two close mid-table games in the Women’s Premiership last weekend, a hungry SCAA Causeway Bay Phoenix side scored an upset 15-12 victory over USRC Tigers.

The entertaining match was in the balance throughout, with the lead changing hands in both halves, good defensive work from Causeway Bay held off some early Tigers probing, and laid the groundwork for a multi-phase attack that ended with a try for winger Hau Sin Man on 20 minutes.

The Tigers hit back quickly with a try of their own, and then a second, as Winnie Siu picked the ball out of a ruck and carried it three-quarters of the length of the pitch, before touching down beneath the posts. The simple conversion gave Tigers a 12-5 lead.

Phoenix were not to be kept down, and as the first half drew to a close, offered up a near repeat of their first effort, moving the ball quickly out to Hau Sin Man on the right wing who outpaced the Tigers defence and narrow the deficit to 10-12 at half-time.

The second half was equally competitive, but remained scoreless until, with six minutes remaining on the clock, Causeway Bay’s determination, and a lack of experience from several Tigers replacements called up from National League 1, led to a third try for Hau Sin Man, as the Pheonix snatched a 15-12 win.

Causeway Bay’s coach, Ocean Chow, was understandably pleased with the result, but also with his players’ mental game: “We deserved to win based on the players’ mindset,’ he said.

“This was a vital game and gives us a strong position to secure a better route against the upper teams in the Grand Championships. We focused on treating this game like a knockout match and the players believed we could do it. Mentally, this win is going to be very important going into the GCs.

“In the last round, we didn’t score on Tigers [0-32, 15 Oct]. This time, the players didn’t lose focus by complaining to the referee about this and that. That kept the game rolling, which was in our favour.”

That focus allowed the team to play up to their potential, Chow believes. “Everyone was ready. We made a lot of tackles, and we made them count. Our back row kept up the pressure – keeping it tight and forcing penalties and then when we won the ball we moved it quickly along the line and into attack. That was our plan and we executed it.”

Losing coach Liu Kwok Leung put the loss down to the disruption to the line-up, (ten of his first team regulars were on national duty either at the Sevens training camp in New Zealand, or with the U19s in Singapore), as well as nerves among some of the younger players brought up from National League One as replacements.

“We made mistakes on the ball – getting the simple stuff wrong, which you can’t do at this level. In the end, we gave up the whole game,” Liu said. “We had too many new players, and they didn’t integrate properly. In the forwards especially, there was a lack of cohesion. We lost quite a few set pieces, and in the rucks, they often turned us around with a counter-ruck.

“We gave them too much time. Right at the end, our girls dropped their concentration a notch, and made mistakes on the wing.”

On the bright side of a tough day Liu said he found some gold in his new recruits: “A few of the players coming up did well. I was especially impressed by Sarah Wong Ka Ying, who did very well and will likely feature in the first team even when the international players are back.

In the weekend’s other Premiership game, HKFC Ice remained on track for another strong Grand Championship tilt in their second season in the Premiership, beating Kowloon 10-0.

For all the weekends scores and the tables see here.

Additional reporting and photo: HK Rugby

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Women’s Rugby Results – 11 February, 2017

Premiership

CWB Phoenix 15-12 USRC Tigers
@ So Kon Po, Kick-off: 18:00

HKFC Ice 10-0 Kowloon
@ King’s Park, Kick-off: 18:00

National League 1

USRC Tigers 0-46 Gai Wu Fawkes
@ Happy Valley, Kick-off: 16:30

HK Scottish 0-19 Revolution SRC
@ Shek Kip Mei, Kick-off: 18:00

Valley Red v Tai Po Dragons
@ Happy Valley, Kick-off: 18:00

National League 2

Tai Po Dragons 5-15 CWB Lammergeier
@ So Kon Po, Kick-off: 16:30

Kowloon v Tin Shui Wai
@ King’s Park, Kick-off: 16:30

Uni-Pirates 0-42 City
@ Sandy Bay, Kick-off: 16:30

Police Sirens 41-0 HKFC Fire
@ Police Boundary Street, Kick-off: 18:00

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Premiership Preview: 11 February, 2017

USRC Tigers bid to close the gap on league front-runners Valley Black and Gai Wu Falcons took a hit last week when they forfeited their match due to a lack of numbers, a problem that will persist this weekend when they visit CWB Phoenix, with the Hong Kong Women’s Sevens team in New Zealand for a training camp and the U19s team on tour in Singapore.

“We are still struggling with our numbers, as around 10 players are missing with either the Hong Kong Sevens team or the national U19s in Singapore, so we are bringing in some players from our NL1 side. I am confident they can handle it,” said coach Liu Kwok Leung.

Liu has prepared his side for the uptick in international competitions this season: “Fortunately, we anticipated the demands of the national teams on our squad before the season. Over the summer, we focused on a lot of development work to bring new players into the NL1 set-up, who can now feed through into that team, while the stronger players get run-outs in the first team.”

“It’s another chance for the newer players to get their experience in first team roles. They are good enough to play at this level, but they just need experience. This is a good opportunity for them to step up and press their claim for more permanent spots,” says Liu.

While some coaches have complained about the impact of the increasing national team commitments on the league, Liu remains supportive.

“The competitiveness and demands on players at national-level forces clubs to bring up new players. We have had to recruit and develop a lot of new players and that is good for the game in the long-run. Without that [commitment] it is hard to maintain two functioning teams,” Liu added.

Adrift of the league leaders by 20 points, Liu is realistic about his side’s chances to contest the league after finishing second last season.

“With our numbers what they are, there is not much we can do about our league standing so we are now focusing 100% on the Grand Finals. The coaching team has the same goal and same target to have the best possible team fit and ready for that competition,” Liu added.

Some respite came for Tigers with the news that all of their injured players have now passed fit for the weekend ahead and Liu is expecting a stiff challenge from the fifth-seeded Phoenix.

“We will use this game and the rest of the league fixtures to prepare for the Grand Final. It gives us an opportunity to test our strongest combinations for the end of season. Causeway Bay are really physical in the contact area. They have some good players from the international schools and they run hard.

I saw them play against Kowloon [14-12 win for CWB on 21 Jan] and was impressed. Our focus in training this week has been on making our tackles count. If we can stop their attack, and keep the ball in our hands, we can make use of our own capability in attack,” Liu added.

For their part, Causeway Bay will enter this weekend’s tie with a temporary advantage, in being able to run out a settled side against Tigers.

“We have no national squad players in this team, so that evens things up a bit when Hong Kong teams are in action, like now. Tigers have some good players missing, so that gives us an advantage,” said coach Ocean Chow.

Like his counterpart Liu, Chow is focusing the team on preparing for the Grand Championships.

“As the league will finish soon, we are targeting the knockout stages in the Grand Championships. This game is like a knockout for us and I want our players to treat this match as preparation for the Grand Championship knock-out stages. We still have a chance to advance to the semi-finals,” said Chow.

Despite coming off a lengthy period of inaction, Chow is excited about the looming grand final stages, saying, “Everything is in play. All the players have taken a good rest over the New Year break and we don’t have any injury problems.

“This will be a difficult game as Tigers are a strong side, but I think we can handle them. If we win, we still have a chance to get into the top four in the league,” noted Chow.

“We’ll play our own style, using our backline and feeding through to the wings. We like to counterattack, so we’ll be looking to take advantage of that any time we get possession,” Chow added.

Additional reporting: HKrugby
Image: Panda Man

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Women’s Rugby Fixtures – 11 February, 2017

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Women’s Rugby Results – 4 February, 2017

Premiership

USRC Tigers 0-20 Gai Wu Falcons
@ King’s Park, Kick-off: 16:30

Valley Black 20-0 HKFC Ice
@ Happy Valley, Kick-off: 16:30

Kowloon 15-20 City Sparkle
@ King’s Park, Kick-off: 18:00

National League 1

Tai Po Dragons 22-5 HK Scottish
@ Tai Hang Tung, Kick-off: 16:30

National League 2

CWB Lammergeier 38-0 Gai Wu Hawks
@ King’s Park, Kick-off: 16:30

HKFC Fire v Tai Po Dragons
@ HK Football Club, Kick-off: 18:00

Photo: courtesy of Gozar Images

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Women’s Rugby Fixtures – 4 February, 2017

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