Photo credit: HKRU
Make no mistake- last Saturday's round of fixtures made for a tough examination of SCAA Causeway Bay's pre-season preparations.
Tempest were pitted against last year's National League 2 finalists Discovery Bay Pirates in the newly-introduced Old Mutual International Championship Challenge Cup, while Women's Premiership side Phoenix faced a tricky visit to Sports Road against HKFC Ice in their second match of the domestic season.
An early advantage against DB Pirates was masterminded by Thibaut Jullien's expert conversion of 3 penalties, which saw Tempest steer clear of their opponents with a 9-5 lead before half-time.
In the second half, SCAA's French contingent proved a potent force once again with Renaud Charbonnel clinching a try and Jullien producing yet another successful conversion.
Faced with a 16-5 scoreline, DB Pirates contrived to jeopardise Tempest's opening day victory, breaking free to score a late try and put themselves within touching distance of the National League 1 side.
However, the boys in pink valiantly held on to ensure the Cup goes home to So Kon Po, at least until they are to defend it against the Gai Wu Rebels next week.
Photo credit: HKRU
On the other hand, Phoenix had already commenced their latest Premiership campaign in imperious fashion, instigating a 60-5 demolition job of City Sparkle which saw them leap to the top of the league.
If their previous performance was one of an unbridled attacking flair, then their showing against HKFC Ice was more a game of two halves.
Tries from flanker Tsang Ching-man and winger Lam Ka-wai proved that the attacking momentum from last week had very much carried on, with both tries coming off good work by the forwards who generated quick ball from the ruck to put Tsang and Lam clean through.
Causeway Bay extended their lead further after centre Au See-wai recovered a nicely weighted chip kick to cross over for a third try, with the conversion bringing the score to 19-0.
Any signs that Phoenix would run amok once more were soon dispelled by HKFC Ice, who closed the gap through fly-half Rachel Fong and summer transfer Rachel Crothers, who bulldozed her way to a try beneath the posts.
Conversely, a comeback seemed to be on the cards as U-20s Sevens representative Jamie Bourke added to HKFC's tally.
Unfortunately, the full-time whistle brought what was an thrilling encounter to a 19-15 close in favour of Phoenix.
The result puts SCAA Causeway Bay in a good position in the opening stages, much to the delight of Phoenix coach Chris Lin.
“That win came because we kept our discipline. We focused on stopping their two or three key ball carriers, who we identified as threats, and we did that," he said.
“We had a good fast start with two early tries and were able to keep our discipline and structure in defence for most of the game. It was an outstanding performance, but we obviously lost steam in the last quarter and nearly let them come back at the end."
In spite of their position in the table, Lin believes that much work needs to be done in order to maintain Phoenix's winning form, especially ahead of this Saturday's top of the table clash against defending champions Valley Black Ladies.
"At the end we weren’t executing our tackles, which meant we couldn’t stop their offloads and we paid for that,” Lin added. “We need to keep working on our fitness and tackling."