Take one for the league: HKFC need ‘best show’ to halt runaway Valley before the winter break
Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday have the last chance before the Christmas break to end Valley’s eight-match win-streak in the HKRU Premiership, but success will require their best performance this season according to head coach Phil Bailey.
At the top of an otherwise even 2015-16 league table Societe Generale Valley have built a commanding 15-point lead going into the ninth round and only third-placed Natixis HKFC can slow their arch-rivals when they meet at Happy Valley, with Hong Kong’s Ranfurly-style Broony Quaich also up for grabs.
“Valley are clearly the best team in the league. They are a quality side with a lot of star players and a lot of internationals. We’re going to need to put on our best show to have a shot at them,” said Bailey.
“We've got to be better than last week, that’s for sure,” the coach added referring to last Saturday’s away loss to Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers.
“We need to do the little things well. Keep the ball and not put ourselves under pressure, like we did last week. We uncharacteristically took our foot off the pedal and [Tigers] took advantage of that.”
HKFC’s task this weekend has been made more difficult by injuries to influential forwards Adam Butterfield and Dan Falvey, and exacerbated by the recent return to Canada of their new front-row signing Andrew Tiedemann.
But Bailey refused to concede any significant advantage to the opposition.
“Obviously, Andrew’s early departure was a big loss. He was one of our top players and we don’t have a response to that at the moment so we’re just buckling down and pressing on,” he said.
This week’s men’s Premiership action kicks off with a Friday evening clash at King Park between bottom-dwellers Sabre Kowloon and Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish. Saturday’s late match sees USRC Tigers host Leighton Asia HKCC at the same venue.
With HK Scottish hit by injuries and the loss of some key playmakers due to visa issues, Tigers and HKFC are probably the only teams capable of closing the gap on Valley who remain the only side with a positive points differential (+119) with fifth-ranked HKCC the nearest to breaking even at -7.
Tigers, who sit second on 20 championship points behind Valley’s 35, are at -15, with HKFC on -17 and HK Scottish at -30.
Like Bailey and HKFC, Tigers head coach Craig Stewart has kept his side in the mix as they prepare to face off against wounded HKCC.
“Cricket Club have a lot of good players and are probably favourites this weekend,” he said. “Last time we played [22-15 to Tigers] they were injury-depleted and we caught them at an opportune moment.
“We’re also suffering from injuries and we lost two more players last week. That brings us to six or seven guys out at the moment. But it was important that we got that win over Football Club last week [24-18]. We did well to show some fight and come back from behind, but I’d like us to get rid of this habit we have of starting slowly.
“Now it’s important that we maintain that momentum we built in the second half of the season. To do that we need to establish a bit more consistency in the team and in our selections,” Stewart added.Cricket Club are nursing several injured players but go into this weekend’s game with more rest after last Saturday’s clash with Kowloon was called off because of a waterlogged pitch in Aberdeen.
weekenosing first choice fly-half Angus Cameron for the season since the two sides last played, they will still be injury-depleted, but are at least entering this weekend’s game with more rest after their tie with Kowloon was rained out last weekend.
In the HKRU Women’s Premiership, unbeaten Valley Black Ladies host USRC Tigers, Kowloon Ladies host HKFC Ice, and second-placed CPM Gai Wu Falcons are at SCAA First Pacific CWB Phoenix.