Women’s Rugby

Hong Kong women have World Cup berth at their fingertips after Fiji cakewalk

Jo Hull’s side relentless from the word go in 45-7 victory, with Natasha Olson-Thorne and Chong Ka-yan leading the way

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 December, 2016, 11:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 4:53pm

Not in their wildest dreams could Hong Kong have imagined a night so perfect.

It was all they’d hoped for and then plenty, with an emphatic 45-7 win over Fiji all but ensuring Jo Hull’s side a spot in their first ever Women’s Rugby World Cup.

While Hull understandably downplayed the fact that her side needs only Fiji to fall short against series favourite Japan on Tuesday to progress to next year’s event in Ireland, the excitement among the players was electric.

It was evident on the field from the moment Natasha Olson-Thorne touched down to open the scoring after 13 minutes and it was almost palpable after the game.

No one was more visibly thrilled than winger Lau Sze-wa.

“Wow, I’m still really, really excited, I don’t know what to say,” a near-speechless Lau said.

“We took a really, really big step and we are probably going to the World Cup, but we have to play the Japan game first.”

In what was a watershed night for the hosts, there were stars right across the ground, with centre Adrienne Garvey delivering a sublime kicking display, fly half Rose Hopewell-Fong directing traffic with aplomb and Chong Ka-yan dangerous out wide.

For Hull, the focus is now on Japan next Saturday, although she will of course have one eye on the clash between Japan and Fiji.

“We’re not there,” she said about the World Cup. “We’re just focused on Saturday now and will see the result on Tuesday, obviously that is massive.

“We’ve not talked about the World Cup yet, but obviously we are one step closer which we are really pleased about.”

A Fiji side that before this year hadn’t played a test in 10 years was horribly undisciplined, tackling loosely and suffering three first-half yellow cards.

Hong Kong pounced, driving home the advantage with slick passing and deliberate running.

“We set the mark right at the start,” Hull said.

“From kick-off, I was really pleased with our leg tackles, our dominance at the breakdown and our physicality.

“We wanted to go out today with a performance, we didn’t talk about a win, we talked about us doing our job and I think for most of the game we did that.”

After Olson-Thorne bullocked her way over the line for the opening try, Hong Kong had all the answers for a Fiji side who were fierce early but faded quickly.

Leading 7-0, the home side withstood a sustained onslaught that saw Fiji nearly score before earning a penalty try when Lau was deliberately fouled as she approached the try line.

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Garvey was on target with the extras and Hong Kong’s confidence lifted as they continued to surge forward, attacking the Fiji line for a full 15 minutes before hooker Karen So Hoi-ting’s converted try handed her side a 21-0 lead at the break.

A Chong try in the opening minutes of the second half put the result beyond doubt and although Fiji found some relief through a converted Sereima Leweniqila try, it was party time for Hong Kong.

Replacement Christine Gordon got in on the act, crossing to make it 33-7, before Olson-Thorne snared a second try to complete the rout.

Garvey was impeccable off the tee, slotting six conversions and a penalty.

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While the possibility of a trip to Ireland next year is now very real, Hull is not worried about her charges getting carried away.

“This is a really focused group,” she said. “Of course we are going to celebrate and enjoy the win, but we know come Monday the focus is Japan.”