Forward planning: Valley still perfect after bruising battle of the packs against HKFC
Seven-try Cricketers batter Tigers as Kowloon secure bonus-point victory over HK Scottish
Natixis HKFC pressed the runaway HKRU Premiership leaders very close at Happy Valley on Saturday but when push came to shove the home pack prevailed with Societe Generale Valley winning 13-6 to extend their perfect run to nine matches.
In a bruising back-and-forth affair in keeping with the historic rivalry between the two sides, Valley took an early lead with a 45-metre penalty from fly-half Ben Rimene.
Lock Adam Campbell scored the hosts’ only try, mid-way through the first half, with Rimene’s beautifully struck conversion from the touchline and a second penalty giving Valley a 13-0 lead at half-time.
HKFC looked dangerous throughout but failed to convert their many chances, especially in the second half after Jimmy Richards and Niall Rowark came off the bench and speeded up play for the visitors.
The Sports Road side held Valley score-less in the second period and, with replacement hooker Mitch Andrews in the sin-bin late in the match, HKFC number eight Trevor Conneely capitalised on a good line-break by the backs to get over the line from in close.Jamie Hood’s quick conversion brought the score to 13-7 and HKFC looked in with a chance to steal the game and claim the Broony Quaich, though Valley will now carry the Ranfurly-style trophy into the second half of the season.
The HKFC forwards delivered a brave performance despite prop John McCoppin going off injured minutes after he had come off the bench and playing the final 10 minutes a man-down.
But the Valley pack forced the issue when it was most needed, folding the HKFC eight in a few key scrums at both ends of the park.
Front-rowers Ben Higgins, Dayne Jans and Grant Kemp proved formidable obstacles in the early going and Valley’s second wave – Hong Kong props Alex Ng Wai-shing and Leon Wei Hon-sum, and a hard-nosed Andrew Kelly – delivering the killer blow.
At King’s Park on Saturday, the slow-starting defending league champions Leighton Asia HKCC finally found their rhythm as they ran in seven tries in a 43-23 romp over Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers, while in Friday’s clash at the same venue Sabre Kowloon beat Bloomberg HK Scottish 35-17 for only their second win this season.
HKCC put their first points on the scoreboard almost straight from the kick-off with centre Duncan Emslie crossing over for the first of a brace.
Fullback Alex McQueen added the extras to give the Cricketers a short-lived 7-0 lead before two quick penalties from Tigers fly-half Liam Gallagher closed the gap.
Flanker Bill Brant scored HKCC’s second try shortly before half-time and with McQueen’s conversion they went into the break 14-6 ahead.
Clearly working off the frustration of having lost five of seven games played to that point, the HKCC 15 produced a three-try explosion in the opening 10 minutes of the second half with prop Rohan Cook crossing over on the resumption of play, Emslie’s second to secure a bonus point, and another from winger Jamie Robinson, the last of which McQueen converted to put HKCC 31-6 up.
Tigers replied with their first of three tries in the match – fly-half Liam Gallagher top-scored for the hosts with 13 points from a try, conversion and two penalties – but HKCC captain Ben Roberts home hopes of a comeback, extending the lead to 38-13 after the conversion by McQueen who also scored the Cricketers’ seventh try.
Going into the mid-season winter break, runaway leaders Valley retain a firm hold on the Premiership top-spot with 39 points, followed by Tigers on 20 and HKFC, who earned a bonus point from their narrow loss to the leaders, on 19. HKCC’s bonus-point romp over Tigers elevates them to fourth in the standings on 17 points, ahead of HK Scottish (16) and Kowloon (11).
In HKRU Women’s Premiership action on Saturday CPM Gai Wu Falcons beat Causeway Bay 19-10, Natixis HKFC beat Sabre Kowloon Ladies 22-10, and Societe Generale Valley Black Ladies kept pace with their male counterparts, defeating USRC Tigers ladies 38-7 to make it seven wins in a row this season.