As a perfect preparation for their World Cup campaign, Kazakhstan have confirmed their position as the leading test nation in Asia with a comprehensive victory in the Asian Four Nations tournament, which took place in Hong Kong this week.
The Kazakhs completed their triumph with a 49-17 win on their final game against Japan, following on from a 68-0 midweek win over Singapore, and a somewhat tighter 13-10 opening with over Hong Kong, who surprised many by finishing the tournament in second place - their best-ever performance - after beating Singapore 53-5 earlier in the day.
Hosts Hong Kong, who started the tournament as the fourth seeds, proved far too strong for Singapore dotting down nine tries in a one-sided rout. Hat-tricks from flyhalf Rose Fong and winger Natasha Olsen-Thorne propelled the home team to victory.
"I'm pretty happy and we are getting closer to where we want to be, but as a coach, you always want more from the players," said Hong Kong coach Chris Garvey. "Today was the closest that we have been to getting where I want this group to be. Credit to the girls, two of whom got hat-tricks and showed a couple of individual moments of brilliance, but the team effort has allowed those individuals to shine,"
Garvey and Hong Kong will look back and reflect on the narrow loss to Kazakhstan in their opener which in the end prevented them from being crowned Asian champions.
"Overall I'm very pleased. If we are being honest with ourselves we never thought we would get anything out of the Kazakhstan match and we thought the Japan match would be extremely tough but the girls have surpassed their own expectation.We set out to get third place but finished runners-up which is fantastic," Garvey added.
Hong Kong captain Christy Cheng Ka-chi added: "This tournament has given us a lot of confidence and we can see ourselves capable of being Asia No.1 in the future."
Kazakhstan's nine-try performance was far more one-sided than anyone expected a week ago, but Japan - perhaps reflecting a prioritisation of sevens since their failure to qualify for the WRWC last season - had a very disappointing week, though they did have, in the shape of Mami Okada, the tournament's leading scorer.
Kazakhstan's strength, on the other hand, seems to have been to have in-form players across the field. Though Anna Yakovleva remains the big name of Kazakh rugby, the glory was shared with a remarkable 13 of their players appearing on the scoresheet over the week.
Hong Kong v Singapore
Hong Kong: Nga Wun Lau; Rose Fong; Aggie Poon Pak Yan; Hoi Lam Ho; Ting Cheng Tsz; Natasha Olson-thorne; Fan Lai Pou; Elizabeth Iafeta; Wing Lam Tsang; Yuen Shan Wong; Suet Ying Ng; Royce Chan Leong Sze; Tsz Yung Ching; Emmy Chan Hoi Ping; Lok Yee Cindy Yuen. Replacements: Sau Yan Ivy Kwong; Ka Shun Lee; Allison Lee; Melody Li Nim Yan; Amelie Seure; Christy Cheng Ka Chi; Christine Gordon; Wai Sum Sham
Scores: Natasha Olson-Thorne (3T); Rose Fong (3T); Fan Lai Pou (4C); Royce Chan Leong Sze (1T); Amelie Seure (1T); Lok Yee Cindy Yuen (1T)
Singapore: Annabel Woo Xue Ni; Yilin Wong; Ming Li Samantha Teo; Li Ying Jacqueline Sng; Jia Yu Chan; Xin Yi Goh; Jialing Derelyn Chua; Mei Giet Koh; Ti Tauasosi; Yi Tian Lee; Si Ying Chang; Sophie Ngin Gollifer; Shao-ing Wang; Yu Hui Low; Chiew Hong Sim. Replacements: Radika Palani Samy; Yuning Vanessa Chang; Nadiah Binte Ahmad Fittri; Ying Xie; Lu En Esther Phua; Christabelle Lim Mee; Shu En Charis Lim; Joanne Bala Archana
Scores: Yi Tian Lee (1T)
Kazakhstan v Japan
Kazakhstan: Nigora Nurmatova; Kundyzay Baktybayeva; Anna Yakovleva; Liliya Bazyaruk; Algerim Daurembayeva; Olga Bakhtiguzina; Vera Vassilyeva; Olga Sazonova; Oxana Shadrina; Yelena Yevdokimova; Veronika Stepanyuga; Karina Proskurina; Aigul Dairbayeva; Natalya Kamendrovskya; Svetlana Karatygina; Yelena Kiryushina; Symbat Zhamankulova; Marianna Balashova; Anastassiya Khamova; Amina Baratova
Scores: Nigora Nurmatova (2T); Amina Baratova (2T); Liliya Bazyaruk (1T); Kundyzay Baktybayeva (1T); Anna Yakovleva (1T); Oxana Shadrina (1T); Svetlana Karatygina (1T); Algerim Daurembayeva;(2C)
Japan: Sayaka Yamamoto; Akari Kato; Ayako Tanaka; Mizuho Ito; Emi Ito; Ai Tasaka; Mio Suzuki; Azusa Yama; Yuka Igarashi; Rina Kato; Saori Yamamoto; Seina Saito; Akari Hayashi; Yuka Yamanaka; Yui Higuchi; Moemi Goto; Maki Ito; Ayumi Inui; Ayago Kosuge; Mizuho Kataoka; Arisa Sakamoto; Mami Okada; Masako Koiso
Scores: Yui Higuchi (1T, 1C); Mami Okada(1T); Ayako Tanaka (1T)