Valley cap 40th season in style as men’s and women’s firsts win Grand Championship titles
Double-winning men beat HKCC 21-5 in Grand Final, while unbeaten Valley Black Ladies edge Gai Wu 12-10
Societe Generale Valley capped their 40th anniversary season in style after claiming both the men’s and women’s HKRU Premiership Grand Championship titles on Saturday at King’s Park.
The men’s team proved their strength in depth once again with a comprehensive 21-5 victory over league runners-up Leighton Asia HKCC, scoring 16 points in the second half to tuck the game away.
Valley Black Ladies were made to work much harder after a magnificent team performance from opponents CPM Gai Wu Falcons, who were denied 12-10 in the last minute of their Grand Final.
“Fortieth anniversaries don’t come around very often, but to cap it like this was special,” said Valley director of rugby Dean Herewini. “We had really good progression at the club from last season.”
In a torrid first half for the men, HKCC dominated the early stages but failed to capitalise on possession and territory. Their only points came from a 70th minute try from towering centre Conor Hartley.
Valley’s Leon Wei Hon-sum opened the scoring on half-time and Valley powered on after the break racking up 13 unanswered points. Ben Rimene converted a try by flanker Toby Fenn, who dived over the line amid heavy traffic in the 47th minute, and kicked three penalties in the second half.
HKCC’s hopes of a comeback were dashed when matt Lamming was sin-binned.
Rimene slotted the ensuing penalty, his third of the night, to bring the final score to 21-5 and return the Grand Championship trophy to Happy Valley for a fourth straight season.
“It’s been a great year working with these guys and I’ve loved every minute of it,” said Valley coach Jack Isaac.“You couldn’t ask for a better group of players. I’m really happy for them because they’ve worked hard enough to deserve this.
“Full credit to HKCC. We expected them to bring a lot of pressure and they did, especially in the first half, but we hung in there and ground it out and got stronger as the game went on. Our forwards were dominant and when it got tight we muscled up and took the opportunities when they came to us.”
Valley’s win gives the club their fourth consecutive Grand Championship win over HKCC, but their first as league champions in that time period. It was the first double for the club since 2008.
A disappointed HKCC coach Deacon Manu said: “It was pretty tight in the first half. I asked for a big start from the guys and I certainly got that.”
Manu said HKCC were fine in the first half, but unravelled after the break.
“We really struggled to get out of our own half. Once they built a lead they applied pressure,” he said.
“With their squad depth they were able to bring on some forwards in the second half that really made a big difference, while we entered the end of the season a bit depleted.”With a 28-match winning streak behind them, Valley Black Ladies showed their first signs of nerves this season in the face of an incredible defensive performance from Gai Wu.
Fullback Aggie Poon Pak-yan was once again the bright star for the Falcons, slotting a penalty late in the first half to give Gai Wu a 3-0 lead going into the break.
Gai Wu showed no signs of letting up in the second half, keeping Valley on edge before overseas internationals Olivia Coady from New Zealand and Bella Milo from Samoa returned some composure to the defending champions.
Flanker Coady made an immediate impact, crossing over for the first of two tries in the second half, with fly-half Milo successfully converting.
Poon quickly replied with a try and conversion to give Gai Wu a 10-7 lead with less than five minutes remaining.
But a late Valley attack resulted in a second try for Coady after she pounced on a loose ball at the base of a scrum.
Valley Black’s win extended their unbeaten streak to 29 matches and two full seasons as they successfully defended their double from last season.
A relieved coach Chris Garvey said: “I thought if Gai Wu were in it in the last 10 minutes I would start to worry, but I didn’t expect that I’d be worried for the entire 70 minutes [Women’s Premiership matches are 35-minute halves].
“We knew they would come at us, but they were simply outstanding today.”