Valley make it two in a row with Grand Final victory over HKCC
Cricketers’ dream of historic Premiership double shot down by defending champions
Leighton Asia HKCC's bid for a piece of history came unstuck as they failed to loosen the iron grip of WhichWay Valley, who won their second Grand Championship final in a row with another hard-fought win at a packed King's Park yesterday.
Hong Kong Cricket Club's bid to win a first double – by adding the season-ending Grand Championship to their league title – was always under a big question mark as they were up against a side they had not beaten in three attempts in the Paul Y Premiership.
Valley made it four out of four with an accomplished 20-14 victory.
"I think there was a history in Valley even before my time that we always targeted Grand Championships," said Valley coach Dean Herewini.
"I think HKCC have done a great job to win the league itself and that is a very important trophy, but from our perspective its about Grand Championships, so we are happy to walk away with it today and it gives us a little bit of a lift going into next season
"If you wind the clock back 12 months ago, it was the same final and the intensity was there, and I think both teams were up for it.
"We like to run a little bit of the play, but to be honest it was more about punching it up in the midfield and kicking it into the corner to force a team like Cricket Club into errors," Herewini added.
Both sides scored two tries apiece – Reece Hamon and Matt Rosslee touching down for Valley while Nick Wheatley and Pale Tauti scored for HKCC – and with goalkickers Ben Rimene and Gus Cameron on target with their conversions it was a tense stand-off entering the last quarter with the scores tied at 14-14.
It was left to left-footed Rimene to provide the finishing touches and break the deadlock as he knocked over a drop-goal and then punished HKCC for an infringement at the breakdown with a coolly slotted penalty to allow Valley's legions of fans among the 2,000-strong crowd to begin their celebrations.
"We lost the kicking battle tonight," said crushed HKCC head coach Andy Hall.
"Early on in the first 20 minutes we had a couple of chances, but we didn't take them. It was quite crucial to get on the scoreboard early. You need to take your chances when you have them."
Two of Valley's three league victories over HKCC this season were nail-biting affairs, and this was no different, as they could not break free of their opponents, who determinedly clung to their heels.
A slick backline move earned Valley their first try when right-winger Hamon went over, but HKCC came back with a solo effort from full-back Wheatley, who chipped the defence before grabbing the ball from the hands of his opposite number Ryan Meacheam to plant a try.
Valley took a 14-7 lead into the break thanks to Rimene who made a strong break before sending a long pass, which the defence knocked back only for Man of the Match Rosslee to scoop up the spilled ball and score.
HKCC drew level 10 minutes after the interval with Tauti driving over for a trademark try from a five-metre scrum. It was then left for Rimene to put his hand up and control Valley's destiny.
"Good on Deano’s men. They know how to win these games and, fair play, they did it well," a gracious Hall said.
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