Coach Hull praises squad’s character as Hong Kong women concede Asian title to Japan
Japan delivered a complete all-round performance in beating Hong Kong 30-3 to capture the 2016 Women’s Asia Rugby Championship title in Tokyo on Saturday – but Hong Kong coach Jo Hull was quick to praise the “character” of her charges.
Despite the final scoreline, Hong Kong showed plenty of fight and turned in a vastly improved performance to their opening 39-3 loss to the Sakura 15, and it was a lacklustre final 20 minutes that cost the visiting team dearly.
“The character was there today,” said Hull. “We went out with a real belief that we could win and we showed some positive signs. In the second half, our defensive structure was there but they started to generate momentum in attack and some really poor decisions put us under pressure.
“We had a good 50 minutes but that’s not good enough. Whilst we did improve, which is what I asked the team to do, it still wasn’t a good enough performance at this level,” she said.
Japan looked the more switched-on in the opening minutes of the game and were rewarded with a try when prop Saki Minami drove over the line.
Hong Kong responded well and dictated play for an extended period, getting to within metres of the line on a couple of occasions.
After going off for a concussion test following a heavy hit, Rose Fong Siu-lan returned to the field and provided a spark - Hong Kong’s relentless attack playing earning a penalty which Aggie Poon Pak-yan slotted over 16 minutes in.
When not in control of the ball Hong Kong defended resolutely throughout the first period with scrum-half Colleen Tjosvold and centre Natasha Olson-Thorne leading from the front.
Japan eventually found a way through with winger Mizuki Homma scoring a try to give the hosts a 10-3 half-time lead.
A determined and persistent Hong Kong again matched Japan in the opening stages of the second half, but a try to Miki Terauchi on 56 minutes took the wind out of the visitors’ sails.
The Sakura 15 struck again nine minutes later with Yuki Sue crossing after a sustained attacking effort and this opened the floodgates, turning what had been a tightly fought contest into another blow out with tries from Riho Kurogi and Ai Hyugaji in the final 10 minutes.
“Their skills under pressure are better than ours,” said Hull. “It really is as simple as that and that has to be our key focus going forward. You can have the best game plan in the world but you have to be able to execute under pressure.
“Our accuracy and decision making were issues, we lost our first three line-outs and at this level you can’t do that. That was disappointing because that was a huge improvement area in Singapore,” the coach added.
Fullback Adrienne Garvey and prop Lau Nga-wun gave good accounts of themselves for Hong Kong as Hull now looks ahead to the Women’s Rugby World Cup qualifying period in December.
“We are now very aware of what we need to work on and we’ve got a committed group to do that. The responsibility has to be on us as coaches and the players to improve our skills. And that’s through working harder and making sure we prioritise that over the summer, along with our fitness,” Hull said.