A 20-8 loss to Japan proves no dampener as Hong Kong celebrate fairytale World Cup qualification
17 December 2016
Hong Kong Ladies bring out the bubbly after officially sealing their place in the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup in Ireland.
It was a tie that was largely inconsequential for both sides in terms of qualification, who have booked their place on the plane to Ireland at the expense of Fiji last week.
Nonetheless, head coach Jo Hull challenged her squad to underline their title-winning credentials by avenging notable losses (39-3 and 30-3) to Japan in the Asia Rugby Championship and showed her attacking intent with a strong lineup that enlisted the likes of Lindsay Varty and Natasha Olson-Thorne.
Despite a strong and dogged start to the game, Hong Kong soon found themselves on the back foot as Japan's Misaki Suzuki drew first blood with a try in the 3rd minute, with Mayu Shimizu seeing to a 10-0 lead for Japan going into the second half.
Winger Natasha Olson-Thorne attempts to force a way through the Japanese defence. (Photo credit: HKRFU)
Shimizu would continue to prove a thorn in Hong Kong's side with her tireless running, eventually adding a third try to Japan's tally on the day with an impressive solo effort.
This proved a fillip to Hull's charges, who attempted to claw the scoreline back and their efforts were helped with a clinical penalty from Adrienne Garvey, though Japan answered with a quick riposte to increase their advantage to 20-3.
However, Hong Kong's fighting spirit was to be rewarded late into the game as Melody Li applied the finishing touch to Olson-Thorne's pass, much to the delight of the home support and celebrations ensued following the full-time whistle.
Hong Kong celebrate a well-deserved try against top-seeded Japan.
Hull, who has made an instant impact since joining from the Scottish Rugby Union over a year ago, was proud of her team's performance.
"Japan came out very fast, at times too much so for us but fortunately we got a better hold of the match in the second half," said Hull.
"We were pretty poor when we played them in the ARC (Asia Rugby Championship), but we're closing the gap (between Hong Kong and Japan) and there was a huge improvement in our performance today."
The result means that Hong Kong's ladies will need the determination they showed today to negotiate a tricky group that includes Wales, Canada and New Zealand in August, as they look to build on what has already been a historic accomplishment on the world stage.