Valley win-streak faces a major threat from resurgent HKCC, says coach Jack Isaac
The Hong Kong Premiership resumes with some key match-ups Saturday after a hiatus for the Cup of Nations test series, with teams jockeying for position over the next three rounds before the league halts again for the Christmas break.
Last season's Grand Championship finalists Societe Generale Valley and Leighton Asia Hong Kong Cricket Club will meet for the second time this season at Kings Park (kick-off 16:30), while second-placed Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers take on bottom-ranked Sabre Kowloon at the same venue (18:15) and Natixis Hong Kong Football Club host third-placed Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish at Sports Road (18:00).
Valley coach Jack Isaac is expecting a stiff challenge from the Cricketers after beating them at home 25-0 in round three.
"We're hoping to keep our winning streak intact but are expecting a really tough match against Cricket Club," said Isaac. "They seem to have most of their guys back and are getting healthy now. I think captain Ben Roberts will be up this weekend and they will also have some of their sevens players returning after the Olympic qualifier."
Valley will be without Ed Rolston, who was one of Hong Kong's stand-out performers in the Cup of Nations.
They will also be without dangerous winger Dave Vainqueur but Isaac is intent on keeping the club's undefeated run intact although he is realistic about the challenges coming up.
"We have a difficult patch ahead with Cricket Club this weekend, then we are away to Scottish at Shek Kip Mei and we haven't always played well there," he said.
"Our last game before the break is against Hong Kong Football Club and I have a feeling they will be quite strong by the end of the next three weeks."
Kowloon have taken advantage of the test break to continue gelling their new members, some of whom made an instant impact for Hong Kong in the Cup of Nations tests.
New flanker Jamie Cunningham and props Adam Fullgrabe and Jamie Tsang all saw significant time in the three-match series as they collected their first international caps.
Head coach James Scaysbrook said: "We have had a good break and were able to take advantage of the test window to get in a good couple of weeks training. Considering our results so far, we're pretty confident."
Kowloon's search for a groundbreaking first win of the season will be tough to achieve against Tigers, who stand second in the league.
Craig Stewart, head coach of Tigers, said: "We want to make some progress on closing the gap with Valley by Christmas but we aren't taking Kowloon lightly. They're a good side."