Hong Kong beat Fiji 45-7 in the opening match of the triangular Women’s Rugby World Cup qualifier that also features Japan last night at King’s Park. A Fiji loss against Japan on Tuesday will see Hong Kong advance to its first ever Rugby World Cup in 2017.
Natasha Olson-Thorne scored two tries and Adrienne Garvey kicked 15 points as Hong Kong took a giant step towards qualifying Friday.
First half tries from Olson-Thorne and Karen So Hoi-ting book-ended a penalty try – all three of which were converted by Garvey – and gave the hosts a commanding 21-0 advantage at half-time. Wing Chong Ka-yan and forward Christine Gordon added converted tries on either side of Sereima Leweniqila’s try that gave Fiji its first points on the board.
A Garvey penalty and Olson-Thorne’s second try of the game capped off a comfortable evening for Jo Hull’s side.
“I was pleased with the way we dealt with their physicality and particularly how we were with our set pieces and tempo,” said coach Hull.
“I asked them to go in without any fear, knowing they could handle the breakdown and contact area, and I think they did that very well.
“I thought it was going to be a close game all the way through, so the result is very good. This is the style we want to play – we want to play fast rugby, and to score that many tries obviously made me very pleased.
“We’re not looking at the World Cup yet. We talked about job one and tonight we’ve done that. Tuesday is the next step and it will be a huge night. Fiji are a strong team and I don’t think anyone should underestimate them,” Hull added.
If Fiji fail to beat Japan on Tuesday, Hong Kong will advance to the World Cup for the first time. The hosts the three-team tournament face Asian champions Japan next Saturday.
“We’ve worked really hard for so long and it’s good the girls put in a performance like that,” said fly half Rose Hopewell-Fong.
“We’ve all been told we can be proud of this performance, but we know we’ve got to put our heads back down and get back to it,” added Hopewell-Fong.
Hong Kong started on the front foot, forcing the Fiji backline to remain firm under early pressure. But their resistance was finally broken in the 13th minute when Olson-Thorne burst through the middle to touch down under the posts.
Fiji came back into the game, but it was Hong Kong who looked the more dangerous in attack and the home side were awarded a penalty try for Esiteri Bulikiobo’s illegal tackle on Lau Sze-wa as she raced towards the try line.
Hong Kong continued to press forward as they sought to give the Pacific Islanders a mountain to climb, but a desperate Fiji defence managed to keep them out time and again. But after the visitors’ Laisa Taga was sinbinned two minutes before half-time, the Hong Kong ruck powered forward and So touched down, before Garvey’s third conversion of the evening gave the hosts a 21-0 lead at the interval.
Hull’s side added a fourth try after a wonderful flowing move involving Olson-Thorne and Garvey allowed Chong to touch down in the corner. The accurate Garvey maintained her 100% conversion rate with her best kick of the night as the home side cruised into a 28-point lead.
Fiji pulled a try back soon after when substitute Leweniqila powered over the line and Merewalesi Rokouono converted to throw the islanders a lifeline.
Normal service was resumed in the 55th minute as Amelie Seure laid off under pressure for substitute Gordon to touch down under the posts and Garvey converted, before the centre added three more points with a penalty just before the hour mark.
And with 13 minutes to play Olson-Thorne spun the Fiji defence and dashed forward from 15 metres out to touch down to the right of the posts and allow Garvey to complete her 15-point haul with the ensuing conversion to seal Hong Kong’s victory.
“When there are penalties against you and mistakes it makes it difficult to play,” said Fiji coach Seremaia Bai.
“The credit goes to the Hong Kong team, I thought they deserved it. They were very organised and controlled the play, so the best team won.
“You’ve got to take the positives and believe in our system and the game plan. Once we moved the ball we looked good. On our try we did the moves we planned and it worked.”