Club savour sweet taste of vengeance
Justice might be putting it a bit too strongly, but the scales definitely fell in favour of Newedge Club as they defeated their arch-rivals this season, Altus Kowloon, to win the Grand Championship final in the Premiership at King's Park last night.
The bitterness between the two sides, stemming from the controversy over the league title which Kowloon won, was evident in the tension that simmered below the surface throughout an engrossing game which ended with Hong Kong Football Club emerging 25-6 winners.
It was hardly a comfortable win, however, as Kowloon harried Club all night long, even when they were down to 13 men early in the second half.
Tries either side of half-time from winger Stewart McGaw and openside flanker Will Hunt sealed the fate of the game. Winger Adam Raby then crossed for a late try to add the icing on a night when Sports Road teams emerged victorious in all three top divisions. Mike Glancy knocked over two penalties and a conversion with Raby converting his try.
The victory was doubly sweet for Club as they felt they had to make a statement after losing the League silverware to a committee's decision - overturning Club's second-round win in the league for fielding an ineligible player, tighthead prop Nigel Hobler.
'We had a real point to prove with everything that had happened. But it was tough. Kowloon are a hard side and you know it is going to be very physical. And it was today,' said Club captain and hooker Tom Bolland. 'But we kept our composure and our [defence] was outstanding.'
Bolland added: 'In the end, this was not about making up for not winning the league. We put that to one side. The job was about winning the Grand Championship, and not just to win it but to win it convincingly and to prove that we are the best side in Hong Kong.'
The man in the centre of the storm, Hobler, this time looked like the cat that got the cream, as he too was bathed in righteous victory.
Having been registered after that oversight during the league, he started and played for 70 minutes before being replaced, to the sound of cheers from his bench.
But he spoke graciously of their opponents. 'I think officially it wasn't about proving a point, but deep down it was very satisfying. In all fairness to Kowloon, they played really well and there are no hard feelings,' said Hobler, part of a front row which dominated Kowloon at the scrum and laid the ground for victory.
Kowloon's plan to play hide-and-seek - not naming their starting line-up until minutes before the match - did not give them any edge.
Facing a powerful Club pack, Kowloon had to put points on the board early and then defend it.
They held off an early onslaught by their opponents, and looked the better side in the opening exchanges, but only had two penalties from fly-half Chris McAdam as dividends, having failed to make use of the scraps of good possession they secured.
'Maybe [Kowloon coach] Joe Shaw thought he is Alex Ferguson by not naming the side until just before the game. We just ignored all that and we went out with a job to do, and the guys stood up,' said Bolland.
An elated Rob Naylor, Club coach, added: 'You do your talking with the way you play out there. Kowloon put us under early pressure but our guys stuck it out and put points on the board.'
'We went out thinking we had a 50-50 chance. But the better side won today. However, overall, we have had a fantastic season regardless of how we won the league,' said Kevin McBarron, Kowloon's director of rugby.