HKCC beat Hong Kong Scottish 34-18 in Super Saturday showdown
HKCC, Valley and Kowloon are winners on opening day of new Premiership season
And you thought the Scots could count. At yesterday's opening game of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union's new league season, Hong Kong Scottish ran out with all sorts of weird and wonderful numbers on their backs. Gone were the traditional one to 22, and instead the players led by captain Adrian Griffiths, who wore jersey 84, sported numbers like 99, 83, 86, 68 and so on.
Was this the new-look American Football-styled league being trumpeted by the HKRFU whose financial success has been charted by such canny Scots like Brian Stevenson, the president, and Stuart Leckie, a former chairman who manages the Union's investments? Not really, laughed team official Dave Whiteford: "It is just that we still haven't got our new kit for the season leaving us no option but to start in our training kit. But the weird and wonderful numbers didn't help."
It certainly did not. The high numbers failed to bedazzle opponents Leighton Asia HKCC who ran out 34-18 winners to get Super Saturday - all three Premiership matches in the Paul Y League being played at King's Park - off to a cracking start.
Last season's league champions Abacus Kowloon and Grand Championship winners WhichWay Valley joined HKCC as winners on the opening day that saw a number of new initiatives, including a champagne presentation to the man-of-the-match by the sponsors. And that too went according to the script with Hong Kong representatives Alex McQueen (HKCC), Andrew Bridle (Valley) and Chris McAdam (Kowloon) all catching the eye of the selection panel.
But behind the hype, it was solid rugby that won the day for the winners, starting with Hong Kong Cricket Club who ran in four tries with an early brace from winger Jonny Patterson steadying nerves. Fullback and skipper Nick Wheatley added the third before prodigal son Pale Tauti clinched the bonus point with a try late in the game.
"Happy with that result, especially the bonus point," HKCC coach Andy Hall said. "We had patches of good play in the first half, but it got better. We got to learn to keep our foot on the throat as we were building momentum, and not allow them back into the game."
Despite a troubled build-up to the season with their home pitch unavailable due to a hacked power cable, Valley came out strongly to hammer arch-rivals Hong Kong Football Club, 38-8. Two tries from sevens star Salom Yiu Kam-shing guiding the way for Valley who led narrowly at the break, up 9-8. But winger Yiu's brace plus another couple from impressive fullback Reece Hamon paved the way for Valley as they answered their sponsors' WhichWay's question - up.
"Our preparation was quite short in preseason, which was also disrupted and, considering all that, I didn't expect a score like that, especially against Football Club," said Valley coach Dean Herewini. "To win like we did is quite pleasing. Club did get stuck into us initially, but we had the confidence. And to get a bonus point against Club is huge and at the end of the day, it will count somewhere down the line."
With the Premiership being decided over three rounds, winning the big games well will count hugely.
"Our ball retention was poor and we didn't protect the ball, and we suffered. They punished our mistakes," said Club's director of rugby Kevin West.
Kowloon struggled in the first half against Borelli Walsh Tigers, leading 7-3, but then cut loose winning 35-3 to successfully defend the Broony Quaich - Hong Kong's version of the Ranfurly Shield.