Double happiness: Valley men and women wrap up titles, issue warning for play-offs
HKCC finish runners-up to secure Grand Championship bye despite loss to HKFC
Societe Generale Valley’s men and women celebrated their championship double in style on Saturday with convincing victories in the final round of the 2015-16 HKRU Premiership regular league.
The Valley men, who wrapped up the championship several weeks ago, lifted their win-loss record to 14-1 with a 31-24 home win over Sabre Kowloon. They finished top of the table on 64 points, 22 clear of their closest rivals.
Even more impressive, however, are the achievements of Valley Black Ladies.
Saturday’s 49-12 eight-try rout of CPM Gai Wu Falcons capped another perfect season for the defending HKRU Women’s Premiership champions, who ended this term with a 12-0 win-loss record and 58 points.
Their unbeaten run of 26 league matches, stretching back to the 2013-14 season, is a Hong Kong Rugby Union record for both genders and across all levels of the senior game.
As league champions both Valley teams will skip next weekend’s Grand Championship quarter-final knockout phase, as they and men’s runners-up Leighton Asia HKCC advance directly to the play-off semis.The Valley women, especially, made an emphatic statement about their play-off intentions by demolishing fierce rivals Gai Wu in an eight-try romp, led by fullback Olivia Coady who crossed the line five times.
Stephanie Cuvelier opened the scoring for Valley Black but Gai Wu replied almost immediately when Aggie Poon Pak-yan dived over to level at 5-5.
From that point on, however, it was one-way traffic for the league champions with New Zealand Black Ferns stand-out Coady scoring her first two tries before half-time.
Bella Milo added a penalty and one conversion to give Valley Black a 20-5 lead at the break and from the restart Coady completed her natural hat-trick to secure a 10th bonus point for the team this season.
More pressure followed and Coady’s fourth consecutive score of the afternoon put Valley in front 30-5.
Sam Scott and Jen Mackay added tries number five and six for the champions before Coady collected her fifth and Valley’s eighth with five minutes remaining.
After Milo had added the extras Gai Wu picked up a consolation second try through Chong Ka-yan with BB Lee Tsz-ting slotting the conversion.Gai Wu had been nipping at Valley’s heals all season, but were edged out of runners-up spot in the final HKRU Women’s Premiership standings by Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers who later on Saturday earned a bonus point in a 37-10 win over SCAA First Pacific CWB Phoenix.
Earlier in the day Sabre Kowloon Ladies got their first points of the season with a hard-fought 15-0 victory over winless Transact 24 Tai Po Dragon Ladies who finish bottom of the standings and in negative territory after they had one point deducted for a forfeit.
In men’s HKRU Premiership action at the weekend, HKCC lost the battle but won the war against Natixis HKFC.
A narrow 24-20 reversal gave the Cricketers a losing bonus-point which was good enough to leave them tied with HKFC on 42 points, but with their superior points differential – +36 to +27 – HKCC ended up as 2015-16 runners-up and claimed that all-important bye in the first round of the Grand Championship play-off.
Despite a large home crowd assembling at Sports Road for HKFC, who went into the game needing a bonus-point win while preventing HKCC from getting one of their own, the hosts got off to a sluggish start and conceded eight first-half penalties, two of which were slotted over by HKCC fullback Jason Kjestrup.
The visiting backline looked dangerous with ball in hand, but once winger Jamie Robinson crossed over to put them 11-0 ahead HKCC eased up on the pressure and allowed the home side to score 14 unanswered points through tries from fly-half Jamie Lauder and hooker Mitch Andrews, both converted by scrum-half Jamie Hood.The penalty count against HKFC continued to mount in the second half and another Kjestrup kick pulled HKCC level in the 50th minute. The match see-sawed with score for much of the second period until Kjestrup kicked a fourth penalty to put the Cricketers 17-14 up with 10 minutes left.
But HKFC came roaring back to snatch victory with a try in the 75th minute, when back-rower Dan Falvey broke through the HKCC centres before being brought down just short of the line. Great support from the forwards put prop Clint Borle over to score, triggering a frenetic finale.
Kenzo Pannell then launched an electric attack from deep in his own half, the fullback flashing down the right wing in and around several HKCC defenders before diving over in the corner with just one minute left.
That try was good for a bonus point, but Hood’s missed conversion left HKCC just seven points back at 24-17 and within losing bonus-point territory themselves.
However, more HKFC indiscipline and their 13th penalty gave Kjestrup his fifth successful kick of the game to take the final score-line to 24-20 and move HKCC into second place in the league standings.
Saturday’s other match saw Bloomberg HK Scottish beat USRC Tigers 24-19 at Shek Kip Mei, setting up a rematch between the two teams, placed fifth and fourth respectively, in next weekend’s Grand Championship quarter-finals. Third-ranked HKFC will meet sixth-placed Kowloon in the other play-off quarter-final.