HKCC edge Kowloon to join Valley juggernaut in men’s Grand Championship final
Valley Black Ladies, Gai Wu to face off in women’s play-off decider
Societe Generale Valley and Leighton Asia HKCC advanced to the Hong Kong Rugby Union men’s Grand Championship final after widely contrasting victories on Saturday.
Valley defeated Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish 48-7 in a seven-try romp while HKCC struggled to a 22-21 win over surprise semi-finalists Sabre Kowloon.
The two sides will meet in the season finale next weekend for a fourth straight year.
In the women’s semi-finals Saturday, undefeated Valley Black Ladies powered home with a 74-0 win over Natixis HKFC Ice, while CPM Gai Wu Falcons defeated Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers 24-5.
“That was a coach killer,” said relieved HKCC coach Deacon Manu. “It could have gone either way and we’re over the moon to come away with that one.
“It was a huge effort from the forwards today and there will be some tired bodies, but we just need to keep on working hard for one more week.”
Kowloon, who finished bottom of the 2015-16 HKRU Premiership league standings, exit the competition with pride and a strong performance to build on for the future, said coach James Scaysbrook.
“It’s starting to click now,” he said. “It took us a while to get started this season, but the lads can see their ability now and there’s a very positive atmosphere at the club.
“This season was the start of a new journey for Kowloon – new chairman, new coaches and a new way of doing things. We expect to move on in the next two years and we’re looking forward to kicking on and making progress.”Valley had no problem handling Scottish, who battled bravely to reach the semi-finals after losing several key players to injuries and visa issues. The hosts at Happy Valley shot out to a 34-0 lead before the break.
Number eight Thomas Lamboley led the try-fest with a first-half brace, while fullback Adam Rolston, prop Leon Wei Hon-sum and centre Tiger Bax all added tries before half-time.
Flanker Toby Fenn and centre Ally Maclay scored in the second half, with the only points for HK Scottish coming from a consolation try for winger Mark Coebergh, converted by Charles Cheung Ho-ning.
In Aberdeen Kowloon made HKCC work hard for the win with the visitors leading 21-17 with just two minutes left.
But Rowan Varty sucked in the last line of Kowloon’s defence before offloading to youngster Matt Wyatt who burned down the sideline to dot down in the corner. The conversion was wide but in the end it didn’t matter.
It was an impressive performance for Kowloon who were composed despite HKCC camping in their half for much of the opening period.
Superb in defence, Kowloon were also patient in attack and regularly turned their limited territorial advantage into points.
The visitors finished the first half looking the stronger side, but were left ruing a late defensive lapse which allowed HKCC centre Alex McQueen to score in the 38th minute.
Makesi Stowers and Marcus Slade also got over for HKCC, while Kowloon’s points came from a try by Rory Martyn-Smith and 16 points from fly-half Jack Neville with a try, a conversion and three penalties.
HKCC advance to their fourth straight final against Valley and Manu conceded beating the Grand Championship’s three-time defending champions is a tough ask.
“It’s David versus Goliath at the moment,” he said. “Valley are fully fit, while we have eight guys out from our Prem side alone and took a couple more knocks today.”In the women’s Grand Championship semis on Saturday undefeated league champions Valley Black Ladies proved too strong for HKFC Ice, easily advancing to next weekend’s final showdown.
But following a promising debut season in the top-tier HKRU Women’s Premiership, HKFC coach David Wigley was full of praise for his players.
“Valley are a level above everyone, but we’re really pleased with our first season in the Premiership.
“We had quite a few injuries early on but we’ve come on and got stronger. This is a tight-knit group who play for each other.
“We came fourth this season and we would have been happy to finish fifth or sixth at the beginning of the year, but now we feel like we can contend against the likes of Tigers and Gai Wu,” added Wigley.
Gai Wu Falcons recorded an emphatic 24-5 win over Tigers in the other semi-final, with a brace from Aggie Poon Pak-yan and further tries from national 15s captain Chow Mei-nam and up-and-coming sevens star Chong Ka-Yan.
“We went out and executed our game plan, particularly in defence and at the breakdown,” said Gai Wu coach Lai Yiu-pang.
“It was a really tough game and the team deserves a lot of credit. It was a big win for us and will give us some momentum. It was also good to get a bit of revenge after Tigers edged us out of second place in the league.”