Lai’s late show hands Hong Kong crucial A4N victory over Japan
A last-gasp penalty from fly-half Lai Pou-fan helped Hong Kong pull off a thrilling 15-14 victory over Japan in the Asian Women’s Rugby Championship at Aberdeen Sports Ground on Wednesday.
Lai, who had earlier missed a second-half conversion following a try by fullback Aggie Poon Pak-yan, more than made up for the miss as she coolly slotted home the winning penalty with the final kick of the match, giving the hosts a scrappy victory.
In Wednesday’s earlier game in the tournament, also known as the Women’s Asian Four Nations, Kazakhstan, the top seeds and Asia’s number one women’s side, hammered Singapore 68-0 to remain unbeaten going into this Saturday’s final games.
“I thought we played better in our first game against Kazakhstan than we did today,” said Hong Kong coach Chris Garvey. “But for long periods we stuck to our game plan and got rewards from that.
“I think if we had been a little more patient at times and had a little more trust in our game, then the result may have been a little less nervy for our management and the fans.
“But credit to our girls, in previous games and years, they [might have] crumbled. Today, they showed more guts and fight, and a whole lot of spirit,” he added.
Hong Kong opened the scoring when inside centre Rose Fong Siu-lan beat her opposite number with a barnstorming run in the fifth minute. Lau converted and Hong Kong led 7-0.
Japan came back strongly through impressive number eight Mami Okada, who had scored a hat-trick against Singapore earlier in the tournament. Okada powered her way over from close range at the back of a maul as Japan hit back and went into the half-time break with the scores level on 7-7.
Japanese centre Ayako Tanaka completed a fine piece of driving play by the pack to score a try and give her team the lead for the first time in the match. Winger Ai Tasaka added her second conversion to make the score 14-7.
But Hong Kong, who had lost 13-10 to Kazakhstan in their tournament opener on Sunday, never gave up and it was left to the dangerous Aggie Poon to round off a breath-taking move by the backs after the forwards had punched it up from a line-out to narrow the gap to just two points. Lau’s last-minute heroics then sealed the victory.
“Too many mistakes cost us the match,” said disappointed Japan coach Goshi Arimizu. “We played well but made too many mistakes and Hong Kong did better in the second half. Their scrum put us under pressure.
“We now must look to Kazakhstan and try and finish off well. They beat us last time we played, so this time we play to avenge that loss,” he said.