Hong Kong women to break new ground in 15s as they line up Spain clash in Madrid
Europeans to test local stars in two-match series overseas as the HKRU looks beyond Asia for tougher opposition
New ground will be broken when the Hong Kong women's 15 play a two-test series against Spain in Madrid next month, the Hong Kong Rugby Union said on Saturday.
The penultimate round of the HKRU Women's Super Series, which saw the Scorpions beat the Vipers 24-12 at King's Park Saturday night, formed part of what is now an important stage of the selection and preparation for what will be Hong Kong's first women's test matches against non-Asian opponents.
The Scorpions were better in the try-scoring stakes, with four to the Vipers' two.
Scorpions winger Lau Tsz-ying set the pace with a first half brace helping her side to a 14-5 lead at the break, but both teams were relentless in applying pressure throughout the match.
Vipers number eight and captain Chow Mei-nam was influential in the first 40 minutes before coming off with an ankle problem and her presence was missed in the second half as the Scorpions pulled away for the win. Vipers opened the second half with an early try to centre Chau Hei-tang who showed pace and a good sidestep to pull her side back to 14-12 after the conversion from the ever-steady Colleen Tjosvold.
But the Scorpions stepped it up another gear entering the last quarter, pushing the Vipers back to their own try-line before vice-captain and prop Lee Ka-shun crossed over from in close to extend the margin to 19-12.
Late in the match Scorpions fullback Stephanie Chan showed a clean pair of heels to turn the corner on the Scorpions defence and cross over near the posts.
Jo Hull, the HKRU's women's performance manager and new Hong Kong women's 15s coach, sees the Super Series as a way to enhance the standard of the game on both domestic and international fronts.
"I was really impressed. There was huge development since the first round," said Hull. "There was a massive physicality in that game and I was pleased with the effort from both front-rows and back-rows.
"Tonight [Saturday] has made us definitely think about our selection for Spain and also showed that a lot of the girls have really put their hands up for selection and that they really want to be part of the team.
"I am also seeing a culture change among the girls, especially playing against their clubmates and playing out of position, which is what we tried to challenge them with," Hull added.
The Super Series sees the top players from the HKRU Women's Premiership clubs, alongside invited players from the national age grade set-up, seeded into invitational sides - Scorpions and Vipers - to play each other in three rounds.
The series is designed primarily to enhance performance at Premiership club level, but will ultimately assist in enhancing Hong Kong's readiness for international rugby.Pressure levels are sure to rise when Hong Kong face their first European 15s opposition in Spain next month. Until now Hong Kong has been hampered by a lack of full-strength women's 15s opposition in Asia, with the exception of Japan, Kazakhstan and Singapore.
"We really want to compete with teams from outside of the region, and Spain was a great fit," said Hull.
"They finished ninth overall in the most recent Women's Rugby World Cup in 2014 and we thought they would be a realistic target for us to benchmark ourselves against."