Abacus Kowloon defeat ONEworks’ Valley to take second Premiership
Team retain title and dedicate victory to late captain David Tait
It was a poignant victory. Abacus Kowloon successfully defended their Premiership League title last night with chairman Kevin McBarron dedicating the triumph to an absent friend - club captain David Tait, who committed suicide in December.
"This victory was in his memory," said McBarron, after watching Kowloon run out winners against ONEworks' Valley at King's Park.
Kowloon closed the door on Newedge Club's title hopes with a 26-11 win in their final league game. A loss or a draw would have opened the door for Hong Kong Football Club who still have one game left tomorrow. But running on pure emotion, Kowloon played hard, ensuring the league title stayed with them for a second successive year.
"What happened to David was a traumatic experience and tore the guts out of a lot of the guys. This game was supposed to have been played on January 5 when David wasn't even buried, but Valley knew we were in pain and offered to postpone the game. We are very appreciative of Valley's gesture and tonight David's memory provided us with some more motivation," McBarron said.
Tait, 25, was found dead in a swimming pool at a Hung Hom residential block. Police said he had jumped to his death.
The man who succeeded Tait to the captaincy, Hong Kong backrower Matt Stockdale, also remembered his former teammate and paid tribute to the rest of the players.
"It has been a hard time since December but the guys have pulled through it all. We dedicate this win to David. This victorious season is also for everyone in the club, we did it for each other," Stockdale said.
Valley gave Kowloon a few anxious moments early in the game when they grabbed an 8-3 lead through a try by Ally McClay and a penalty from Ben Rimene. Two penalties from Elliot O'Brien and a try from skipper Stockdale settled the nerves as Kowloon clawed their way back to take a 16-11 lead at the break. A second try by Adam Dehaty and the boot of Chris McAdam ensured Kowloon ended the league season on a happy note.
"This win is good for rugby in Hong Kong. It goes to show that it is more than just Valley or Hong Kong Football Club dominating the game locally. But what is more pleasing is that our second team won the Premiership A title, which goes to prove the strength in depth," McBarron said.
The win also gave Kowloon bragging rights having proved the point that there was no need for outside forces to propel them to victory as was the case last season, when Football Club were stripped points for fielding an ineligible player.
"Last season there were some legal issues and a lot of talk that we didn't deserve the title," Stockdale said. "But no one can take this one away from us. The guys deserve it."