Valley win pyrotechnic affair
There were plenty of fireworks yesterday - and not just out on Victoria Harbour. As expected, the clash between arch-rivals Asahi Valley and CBRE Club, won 14-8 by Valley, turned out to be a fiery and combustible affair with frequent battles marking rugby's own National Day celebrations.
And to add spice, a new rivalry was born between Valley's impassioned Andrew Wong Kee and Club's new signing from South Africa, Andre Barnard - one which promises to be a long-running feud this season.
Wong Kee, playing for the first time as a flanker, made his presence felt in the very first minute of action when he welcomed inside-centre Barnard to Hong Kong rugby with a crunching tackle. It set the tone for the rest of the match. Barnard had to wait until late in the second half to return the compliment, but by then Valley had already taken control of the match.
'I loved it. It was a hard battle out there,' grinned Wong Kee afterwards. He was referring to the budding romance between himself and Barnard. It will certainly be a tempestuous affair.
But all those off-the-ball incidents took Club's mind from the job at hand according to coach Rodney McIntosh who was unhappy that his side had not been able to dominate despite having a good share of the possession.
'Our discipline let us down. This was our biggest problem. We lost our composure and shape after the initial 20 minutes,' said McIntosh. 'We played poorly and I'm really disappointed as this was not Valley's strongest team'.
Club dominated in the early stages and scored from a penalty by fly-half Ben Harris and a try from close range by scrum-half Simon Aird. They could have dotted down a couple more tries but No 8 Rob Henley was twice denied from five-metre scrums. Henley is outstanding in the loose, but he is no Paul Dingley and he was held up on both occasions by Valley blindside flanker Renaud Chevaris.
Valley's entire back-row was outstanding as they kept a star-studded Club backline quiet. Andy Yuen at No 8 had a huge game while Wong Kee revelled in his switch from scrum-half to openside flanker. His defence was absolutely superb.
'This is all pretty new to me. I'm still learning about the position. I know I have to improve my fitness levels because it is different to that of a half-back. It is hard work,' admitted Wong Kee.
But on yesterday's performance, opponents had better beware. Wong Kee is a natural. He is bound to become the bane of opposition fly-halves and centres - as Barnard knows only too well.
'It was the toughest game I have ever played. Our defence was really good especially round the rucks. I'm proud of the boys for they played with a lot of heart and where heart is concerned, that is something you can't teach,' said Valley's delighted skipper Justin Temara.
Fly-half Temara scored all of his side's points from a try and three penalties. The try came right on half-time.
A multi-phase move with good lead up work by Yuen and impressive hooker John Galo finished with Temara bursting through the defence to score by the corner flag.
The try went unconverted but Valley had struck a huge psychological blow as the sides went into the break level at 8-8.
The second half was all Valley, as they dominated territorially to grind out a morale-boosting win.