Danny Kroll heroics help Hong Kong Scottish stun leaders Valley
Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes were calling at Happy Valley on Saturday night. And Danny Kroll answered them in fine fashion right at the death, engineering the match-winning try that propelled Hong Kong Scottish to a remarkable 16-9 victory over WhichWay Valley and reopened the race for the Paul Y Premiership league title.
With three penalties apiece and the scores tied at 9-9, the clock was running out and the unyielding Hong Kong Scottish forwards forced play back inside the Valley 22, brilliantly keeping a multi-phase move alive as they tried to create space and time for a last-gasp drop-goal from their sure-footed fly-half Kroll.
"I got the pass but it was a bad one as it came on my wrong side, my left side," explained the right-footed Kroll. "I had no option but to run with it. Luckily for me a hole opened up and I went for it and support was waiting for me."
Kroll was standing just inside the 10-metre line when he received that pass and his instincts took over. His angular run cut through a grasping defence before he sighted the welcome figure of hard-working captain and No 8 Adrian Griffiths who was on hand to deliver the killer blow, touching down by the left corner flag.
Referee Toby Lothian consulted the touch judge before he awarded the try, sparking mayhem among the Scottish supporters.
But Kroll wasn't finished. He knocked over the touchline conversion, which added to his three earlier penalties to give his side a well-deserved victory and, perhaps, prompt them to pen some new lyrics for that famous Irish ballad – something along the lines of: "Oh, Danny Boy, how I love you so ... for breaking Valley hearts".
Crestfallen loose forward Nick Hewson summed up the mood in the Valley camp, saying: "We have no excuses. They were better than us, hungrier than us. They out-enthused us."
While the defeat has opened the door for title-contenders Leighton Asia HKCC, Hewson, who had a running battle with his opposite number Jack Walters all day, was gutted that Valley had to relinquish the Broony Quaich at the tail end of the season and in their final game at home.
"It is really disappointing. We wanted to secure the Quaich because it means so much to the guys. But we messed it up big-time," he said.
It must have been especially heart-breaking for Valley coach Mike Diamond to present the silverware to the Scottish raiders as he was a close friend of the late Iain "Broony" Brown, in whose name Hong Kong's version of the Ranfurly Shield had been donated.
The writing seemed to be on the wall as early as the first minute when Hong Kong Scottish turned over possession at a breakdown. They dominated the early passages of play to lead 6-0 before Valley came back with two penalties from Ben Rimene, significantly when their opponents were down a man with Craig Hammond in the sin-bin.
Another penalty from Rimene gave Valley the lead at the break, but the visitors drew level through Kroll before his last-minute heroics sealed a memorable win.
"This keeps our season alive," said Kroll, understating the fact that his side are now in with a great chance of finishing in the top four to earn a place in the Grand Championship play-offs.
Scottish are one point behind fourth-placed Abacus Kowloon, who lost 14-10 to Newedge Club on Saturday. With two games to play, they are well-placed to snatch the final berth in the season-ending knockout tournament.
In the third Premiership game on Saturday, HKCC scored a 51-15 bonus-point victory over Borrelli Walsh Tigers to draw level with Valley at the top of the standings on 49 points, but take the lead lead position by virtue of their superior points differential.