Giant-killers Gai Wu end Valley's 51-game unbeaten run

January 15, 2018

Photo credit: HKRU

 

It seemed as though it would go on forever.

 

Valley Black Ladies' incredible 51-game unbeaten run began three seasons ago, during which Bella Milo's charges have built nothing short of a dynasty with the Women's Premiership title as its crowning glory.

 

But if there was a team capable of toppling the hierarchy, it had to be last year's Grand Championship finalists Gai Wu Falcons.

 

Aside from narrowly losing their previous encounter at the beginning of the season, the Falcons have matched the Black Ladies stride for stride by picking apart the rest of Premiership A, relentless in their pursuit of the three-time defending champions.

 

An early try from Valley No.8 Aroha Savage and a conversion by Zoe Smith ostensibly pre-empted another routine Valley win. 

 

While victories against USRC Tigers (22-8) and Hong Kong Football Club Ice (29-12) may have put the wind of belief in their sails, the return of the talismanic Christy Cheng from injury steadied the Gai Wu ship, with the Sevens stalwart hurtling across the line after leaving the Valley defence in disarray.

 

Falcons' Greer Muir then added to Gai Wu's advantage with an impressive turn of pace taking her past two Valley defenders, handing her side a 12-7 first-half lead.

 

Photo credit: HKRU

 

As any followers of local women's rugby would tell you, not every game in Valley's 51-game unbeaten run was all clear skies and smooth sailing. Nor did the game's proceedings sit well with Black Ladies' Bella Milo.

 

The Samoan player-coach, so influential for Valley on and off the pitch, immediately turned the tide with an early try and her effort was soon followed by a well-executed drop-goal by Smith to put the defending champions 15-12 to the good.

 

Compounded by a yellow card for Gai Wu's Wong Ka-yin towards the end of the match, this would normally have sufficient to see the game out in their favour.

 

Desperate situations like these call for moments of individual brilliance and this time, it was to be duly answered by Aggie Poon Pak-yan and Chan Ka-yan who shifted the Falcons machine into extra gear, notching two priceless tries in the dying minutes to complete an astonishing comeback.

 

Gai Wu coach Sailo Lai was quick to recognise the stubborn defensive effort put on by his players that kept the imperious Valley at bay.

 

"It was amazing. Our defence was massive. We won this game because we defended well. We held out not just once but twice on our try line," said Lai.

 

"Mentally, we were spot on and kept a high focus for the entire 80 minutes. We lost momentum once, but then we got it back and were able to maintain it for the full 80.”

 

Milo was graceful despite the unfamiliar taste of defeat, agreeing with her counterpart's assessment.

 

“They played really well. The game was won at the breakdown, which is where they came out faster and we couldn’t slow them down, but it just means we’ve got to work a bit harder. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”

 

Final score: 22-15, as Gai Wu Falcons move into pole position in the Premiership A table. 

 

 

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