Hong Kong build towards WRWC qualifiers
By Alison Donnelly
Hong Kong received a "welcome boost" ahead of next month's Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 qualifier after making the most of home advantage to beat Singapore 22-17 at the So Kon Po Stadium.
Singapore will host the Asian qualifier, to determine the 12th and final team at Women's Rugby World Cup 2010, on 4-6 November with Hong Kong, Japan and Kazakhstan the other sides hoping to book their place in England.
The last time these two sides met in a two-Test series in December, Hong Kong came out slightly ahead with the first game tied at 10-10 and the second yielding only a single unconverted try.
Singapore came into this friendly on the back of a handsome win over international newcomers Malaysia, but they knew Hong Kong would present a much tougher challenge and that proved to be the case in free flowing game.
Hong Kong started the game brightly with a try by Fiona Foxon in the first 10 minutes, the scrum half taking a quick tap penalty to dive over the line.
The second try came from a similar position as Singapore's rearguard was caught out again from a quickly taken penalty and this time centre Becky Underwood was rewarded with a try.
Late flourish from Singapore
Singapore's cause was made more difficult by injuries to a number of players early in the game with number 8 Ang Wei Yi (shoulder) and scrum half Aslinda Abdullah forced out of the match.
The visitors tried to regroup and reorganise their attacking pattern and their persistence paid off in the 29th minute when full back Angelina Liu marked her first appearance for Singapore with a try.
Hong Kong hit back before the break when centre Underwood intercepted a long pass and touched down under the posts to give her side a 17-5 at half time.
Singapore came out firing in the second half with an early break from wing Amanda Teo taking play all the way up to Hong Kong's try-line but she was just held up by the recovering defenders.
Hong Kong made sure of victory when Underwood completed her hat-trick shortly afterwards following a string of missed tackles which brought the score to 22-5.
However Singapore weren't going to fold easily and a score from flanker Karen Yeoh brought them back into the game. That score seemed to inspire Singapore to pick up their attacking play and they put their opponents under major defensive pressure for the rest of the game until they were awarded a penalty try right at the death.
"The game was a friendly for both sides to prepare for the WRWC qualifier in Singapore next month. This was a great opportunity for both coaches to look at the potential players," said Hong Kong manager Ruth Mitchell.
"We have improved so much and we are all hopeful but it will a tough game coming up against Kazakhstan, the power-house of Asia, in our first qualifying match."
This match was an exciting appetiser ahead of the upcoming Women's Rugby World Cup qualifiers in Asia when hosts Singapore face Japan and Hong Kong tackle Kazakhstan on 4 November.
The two winners then meet in the final two days later to determine who will join defending champions New Zealand, 2006 runners up and hosts England, France, Canada, USA, South Africa, Wales, Ireland, Sweden, Scotland and Australia at the World Cup.