Hong Kong believe ahead of Japan finale at Women’s World Cup after strong display in Spain defeat
Jo Hull’s side put in their best performance of the tournament during 31-7 loss in Belfast ninth-place play-off semi-final
Hong Kong head into Saturday’s Women’s World Cup finale against regional rivals Japan brimming with belief according to coach Jo Hull after the tournament debutants turned in their best display in Ireland in their play-off defeat by Spain.
Showing lessons learned from pool stage defeats by Canada, New Zealand and Wales, Rose Hopewell-Fong touched down for Hong Kong with Adrienne Garvey adding a conversion at the end of the first half at Queen’s University in Belfast on Tuesday, Hong Kong lost 31-7 in their ninth-place play-off semi-final.
And having claimed 61 per cent of the territory and possession against a Spain team they lost 41-18 to in June, Hong Kong will need to continue that progress having suffered 58-0 and 60-19 defeats by Japan in the Asia Rugby Championship earlier this year.
“We will take a lot of confidence from this game. That is very telling now for us in our last game,” said Hull.
“Now we have a chance to really challenge Japan and go into that game with some belief. They put a heavy score on us before the World Cup and this will be another opportunity, like Spain, to benchmark our progress and to continue to close that gap.”
Watch: Spain 31-7 Hong Kong highlights
Hong Kong controlled significant periods of the match against Spain capped by Fong crossing for Hong Kong’s third try of their World Cup debut in Ireland, which was converted by Garvey just before half-time cutting Spain’s lead to 14-7.
But Spain, who included 11 of their Olympic sevens team that missed June’s meeting, added three further tries in the second half to progress to the ninth-place final against Italy, who recorded a 22-0 win over Japan.
“We expected them to come out fast and they did,” said Hull. “We held them off quite well from the start and I’m proud of the girls.
“That game shows how much we have improved against teams like Spain, and what was a full-strength Spanish team as well, over the World Cup.
“We’ve now shown we can close the gap on teams like that, compared to what we were doing against them even a few months ago.”
Spain crucially pulled away with two tries in the first 17 minutes of the second half, which included Iera Echibbaria’s sole run from inside her own 22 metre line, before they sealed their win with 12 minutes remaining.
“We were competitive for 50 or 60 minutes, but once they got their momentum up it was quite difficult to score and they did well to take advantage of our mistakes,” said Hull.
“At half-time there was one try in it, despite the fact that we didn’t manage the contact area as well as we wanted to. Even with a lot of possession we couldn’t generate much momentum in the first half.
“But we made them defend. There were plenty of times that if we would have just gotten that final pass away we would have been under the posts.
“The girls made them play and forced them into a type of game that wasn’t to their liking and that took a lot of bravery to go out and make those tackles and continue to reload.”