Rugged Isi keeps busy to steer Valley to victory
A STAR was born last night. Isi Tua'vai, a rugged Tongan centre, played a prominent role in Valley's narrow 11-10 victory over Hong Kong Football Club in the LOGO Cup.
And, based on the showing, there is no doubt that Tua'vai is a star on the ascendancy in the ranks of Hong Kong rugby. And this is good news for Valley, a side held together by a couple of golden oldies, who just seem to get better with each passing seasons.
It will also be good news for Hong Kong coach George Simpkin as he builds a national outfit capable of winning next year's Asian tournament, and earn a berth in the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa.
Tua'vai, or Isi, as he is known to his new teammates, is likely to be the first name to have been pencilled in by Simpkin. When asked for his first impressions of the Tongan, Simpkin said in his gruff rugby-speak: ''He is okay.'' Translated, it means, Hong Kong have a brilliant centre. If there were more like him, Simpkin's task in Malaysia would be a cinch.
The former North Harbour and Tongan international delivered the goods last night as he dominated the midfield with his surging speed, straight running and tough tackling.
His speed sometimes proved to be a bugbear for even his Valley forwards, who were always a couple of metres slow to the breakdown, which inevitably saw Club clean up the loose ball.
''It was a bit strange. It was the first time I was playing with the guys, and I guess it will take some time before we start to click,'' said Isi, after his bravura debut performance.
But one Tongan does not make a Valley team. The golden oldies - fly-half Pieter Schats, openside flanker Simon Litster, number eight Stuart Krohn all performed creditably.
In the forwards, the 38-year-old Litster stood out, his mobility putting to shame younger Club opponents. Evergreen Schats showed glimpses of his old brilliance.
But, despite the dominance of Schats and company, it was Club who led for most of the game after a controversial try gave them a 10-6 lead.
Two penalties by Isi in the opening minutes gave Valley a 6-0 lead. But a penalty by Club centre Keith Gauntlet cut the deficit before the home team took the lead, courtesy of a freak try close to half-time.
It happened after Gauntlet missed a penalty. Schats collected the ball and, thinking he was in the dead ball area, did not touch down. Club winger Anthony Cause, more familiar with his home pitch, charged Schats, grabbed the ball out of his hands and touched down.
A try was awarded, despite Valley protests, and Gauntlet duly added the extra points.
The status quo continued well into the second half, with desperate Valley attacks snuffed out by an even more desperate Club defence until a try in the dying minutes by winger Ashley Billington gave Valley a deserved 11-10 win.
Valley now meet Police in the next round, while Valley Knights, who beat Dragons 22-15 in the other match last night, will play Kowloon.