Whitney pops up just in time to give HKCC cause to celebrate
It was billed as the crowning glory for the G4S First Division title with champions elect Synovate Hong Kong Cricket Club just having to show up at King's Park last night, do the business on the paddock and everyone could crack open the champagne.
Unfortunately for them Crown Valley were in a mood to spoil the party and came agonisingly close to doing so before narrowly losing 18-17, after going into the final minutes of added time 17-13 up.
A try in the dying moments from HKCC hooker Wayne Whitney - when with help of his pack he was able to drive over from a lineout - was what got his side home.
'We always knew it would be tough, and it was easily our hardest match of the season,' HKCC captain Mike Meredith said.
'We've got out of jail but over the course of the season we've been consistently the best team, so overall I think we deserve to be champions although Valley really put it up to us tonight.'
It was a fair assessment but they should consider themselves lucky to have won on this occasion. After dominating the first half to go into the interval leading 10-0, Valley ran the show in the second period.
It was also a game of missed chances, with HKCC and Valley playmakers Gareth Arlidge and Justin Temara both having a night to forget with the boot.
Arlidge kicked wide five attempts (four penalties and a conversion), while Temara missed six (five penalties and one conversion).
Of those however, Temara's were the more kickable, and it was something that sorely went against his side in the end. If he had kicked even one or two of those easier chances, Valley would have won the match.
'You can't afford to miss those kind of chances and expect to win against a side like HKCC,' Valley coach Nick Leger said.
'But we were still leading coming into injury time, so to lose like this is very hard to take.
'It's very disappointing because it was important to show that HKCC are beatable but we couldn't put them away. We just have to go back to the drawing board.'
A try from Gareth Arlidge following a strong break by centre Simon Hempel, plus a conversion and penalty from Arlidge gave HKCC a 10-0 lead at the break.
But Valley came roaring out of the blocks in the second half and a try from prop John Hamilton after a superb pass from Mike Diamond transformed the game.
To his credit Temara put his first half showing behind him and was at the hub of all Valley's best attacking moves after the break.
More importantly he found his shooting boots and knocked over four penalties to make it 17-10 to his side, before an Arlidge penalty brought HKCC back to 17-14.
But in a barnstorming finish that saw Valley winger Mark Komar harshly sin-binned by referee Liu Hao after some harmless scuffles, Whitney struck to break Valley hearts.
It was a hard way to lose but Leger and his side should take heart from the game, however, as should the likes of CBRE Club and DeA.
HKCC have swept all before them in their run for the title and throughly deserve it but yesterday showed they are fallible. The gap between themselves and the rest can still be bridged.
The Grand Championship is on the horizon and the race for it could be closer than you think.