The All Girls Rugby Tournament, the world’s largest female youth rugby tournament, co-hosted by local club Sai Kung Stingrays and Laxton Events, came to a close on Saturday at King’s Park following a thrilling final between the U19 hosts and Australian team Illawara.
The two clubs had played a close match on day one in which Illawara won a close victory. It looked like the Stingrays were on their way to avenging Saturday, jumping out to a quick 12-0 lead. But the Australians fought their way back in the second half, playing lockdown defence and executing beautifully on offence to secure the final win with a final score of 15-12.
Stingrays girls, who were centimetres away from winning it all, We're disappointed while tears of joy could be seen from Illawara following their incredible comeback.
“An amazing couple of days that I will never forget,” said Stingrays’ U19 co-captain, 17-year-old Australian International School student Lara Schats who scored the try which gave the Stingrays its 12-point lead. “Obviously I'm disappointed with the final result, but I’m happy with the way we played this tournament. We had a bit of a rough season, but we finally came together for this tournament with everyone healthy and, in my opinion played the best rugby we’ve ever played.”
Lara’s teammate, 17-year-old King George V (KGV) student Francesca Pesci who has been with the Stingrays since she was five years old, said the team attained their biggest objective, which was “to just go out and enjoy ourselves”.
“For a lot of us, it was our last year together as a team, and we just wanted to go in, have fun and play our game, and I think we were able to do that.”
It wasn’t surprising to see club teams from Australia – one of the world’s rugby powerhouses – do well in the tournament. However, the Hong Kong squads showed they have plenty of young talent and were very competitive with the Aussies, as shown by the Discovery Bay Flying Pirates putting up a great fight against Renegades 32 in the U16 cup final.
“I was really impressed with the standard of Hong Kong teams, and to come in and get the victory against so many good teams was a huge honour,” said Renegades 32’s Tiana Raftstrand-Smith, who was named Most Valuable Player of the U16 girls.
Meanwhile, the U19 Stingrays defeated the U19 Renegades 32 to set up their final match against Illawara
Australia’s Neddies took home the U14 crown, while HKU Sandy Bay took home the U12 trophy. In total, 78 teams competed across seven age groups ranging from U6 to U19.
Overall, coaches and players agreed the tournament was not only a lot of fun, but an important step in getting female rugby playrrs some much-deserved confidence and exposure.
“Even though the boys get more attention on TV, there is no difference in skill between us,” said Giorgia Buttrey, KGV student and the Stingrays’ U14 captain.