Hong Kong on verge of World Cup

Hong Kong are all-but at next year,s World Cup after an ill-disciplined and inexperienced Fijiana team were beaten 45-7 in the first game of the Asia/Oceania qualifier.

Published by j, December 11th, 2016

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Hong Kong on verge of World Cup

This was always going to be a tough ask for Fiji, who hadn’t played a test in 10 years prior to last month, but poor discipline, loose tackling and three first-half yellow cards all-but ended any hopes they may have had of upsetting Hong Kong in their own backyward.

Hong Kong took full advantage of the gifts Fiji game them, driving home the advantage with slick passing and deliberate running.

“We set the mark right at the start,” Hong Kong coach Jo 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.”

"I was concerned with the number of yellow cards in the first half. That started to lose the concentration of players," Fiji Rugby Union chief executive officer, John O'Connor said. "We need to work on our structure and there were a lot of individual play."

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 Hong Kong winger Lau Sze-wa was deliberately fouled with an illegal shoulder charge from Fiji’s Esiteri Bulikiobo that prevented a certain score in the corner. The tight-head prop became the first of three Fijiana players to be sent to the sin-bin in the first half.

That one moment all-but ended the game for Fiji, costing them not only the extra two points as Garvey was on target with the extras from in front, but also boosted Hong Kong’s confidence as it gave them a player advantage. Hong Kong now to surged forward, attacking the Fiji line that held out for a full 15 minutes – but at the cost of two more cards as centre and vice-captain Talica Vodo and then second-rower Laisa Taga.

With such an advantage the only surprise was that Hong Kong did not score more than the single try from hooker Karen So Hoi-ting’s which handed her side a 21-0 lead at the break.

Fiji found a quick response through their forwards, replacement Sereima Leweniqila touching down two minutes after taking to the field for their only try of the match. Merewalesi Rokouono's conversion went in off the right-hand post.

But 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.

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.”

Hong Kong squad: WONG Yuen Shan, SO Hoi Ting Karen, LEE Ka Shun, CHOW Mei Nam (Captain), CHAN Ka Yan, Amelie SEURE, Christy CHENG Ka Chi, Melody LI Nim Yan, Jessica HO Wai On*, Rose FONG, CHONG Ka Yan, Natasha OLSON-THORNE, Adrienne GARVEY, LAU Sze Wa, Collen TJOSVOLD, Royce CHAN Leong Sze, LAU Nga Wun, CHEUNG Shuk Han, Winnie SIU Wing Ni, Christine GORDON, Lindsay VARTY, LEE Tsz Ting, KWONG Sau Yan.