Yuan's mainland lions spring surprise on Tigers
A power-packed performance from the PLA Sports Institute forwards, led by the highly impressive tighthead prop Yuan Guoqiang, saw the mainland team pull off a superb 30-25 win over DeA Tigers at King's Park yesterday.
And the day of upsets was rounded off when Kowloon scored five tries to beat fancied Hong Kong Football Club 32-10 in the only other First Division League game.
DeA Tigers have picked up the bad habit of losing matches in the last few minutes. Last week they lost 10-7 to Asahi Valley having led 7-3 with a few minutes to go. It was the same story yesterday as they let slip a two-point lead to end losers for the second time in seven days. PLA winger Liu Jian scored the decisive try, late in injury time, to deny the home team victory. It was a fully deserved result for the mainlanders who outplayed DeA, especially in the forwards, for long stretches to carve out an exciting win.
'They deserved to win. We missed tackles, missed tackles and missed tackles. But PLA were big, strong and committed. Their forwards were well drilled and outplayed our pack. I have no complaints, they won fair and square,' said disappointed DeA Tigers coach Jim Walker.
Fortunes swung in a game dominated by the PLA forwards who looked dangerous every time they got momentum going by crashing the ball up the middle. Young prop Yuan was the pick of the forwards with his barging runs creating uncertainty in the opposition ranks. Also potent with ball in hand was No 8 Deng Zhigang who made some telling breaks from the scrum.
PLA flyhalf Zhou Bo knocked over two penalties to give his side an early 6-0 lead before DeA Tigers scrumhalf Rob Naylor pegged it back with a penalty.
DeA Tigers went in front for the first time, when, against the run of play, centre Fred Moe scored a try after Naylor had taken a quick tap-penalty that caught the PLA off guard. Naylor converted and DeA Tigers led 10-6 at the break.
They extended the lead through winger Scott Stobba who picked his way past the defence to score by the right corner flag. Naylor missed the conversion but DeA Tigers led 15-6 and seemingly had the match under control.
But the PLA came back strongly when No 8 Deng scored the try of the match. Picking up from a scrum on the halfway mark, Deng broke on the blind, drew the cover before passing to his winger and then was on hand again to receive an inside pass to score his side's first try, which went unconverted.
DeA Tigers made light of that blow with flyhalf Johnny Zhang Zhiqiang touching down from a superb solo effort that saw him dummy the entire defence. He converted his own try to increase the lead to 22-11.
But PLA were not out of it. Their forwards, controlling the ball well, scored two tries from close range to regain the lead, 23-22, with five minutes left on the clock. DeA Tigers went ahead again with Zhang knocking over a penalty to give his side a two-point buffer.
However, hopes of a win were dashed when, from the re-start, the PLA forwards won the ball, and cleverly released winger Liu to score the killer blow.
Kowloon struck another mighty blow for the cellar-dwellers as their front five dominated Football Club at Sports Road. The hosts were missing a number of key players including Paul Dingley, Chris Gordon and Tom Cameron and looked lacklustre.
'They did not have a platform to launch any attack as Kowloon totally dominated the tight five,' said HKRFU director and former Football Club coach Jim Rowark. 'Kowloon fully deserved the win.'