Conor Hartley looking to draw on finals experience as Scottish chase HK Premiership glory
With only three minor-round matches remaining, the 24-year-old centre is crucial to his side’s chances of securing their first major silverware
A Scottish side hunting their first major silverware in the Hong Kong Premiership will be looking to the likes of gun centre Conor Hartley to lead the way as the finals series approaches.
Hartley switched from Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC to Bloomberg HK Scottish this season and played in the Cricketers loss to Societe Generale Valley in last year’s grand championship final.
He scored his side’s only try in that game and was also a member of the HKCC squad that won the league championship the season before.
Although he missed the majority of that campaign with a shoulder injury, Hartley is hoping to use his experience to help his new side – who sit only one point behind top-placed Valley on the table – make history.
“I think we need to start thriving off the big games now,” he said.
WATCH: Highlights over Scottish’s win over HKCC
“We know we can put in a really good performance when we want to, it’s just a case of doing it for the whole 80 minutes rather than 40- or 60-minute bursts.
“Our last two games [against Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers and HKCC] we have won comfortably but only in the second half.”
Hartley has been a key player for Scottish this season, racking up tries, and he credits long-time friend and now teammate George Fleming for making the move as easy as possible.
“I live with George and we know each other from back home at university and stuff, so it has been really easy to fit in,” he said.
From Yeovil in South Somerset, Hartley studied at Exeter University and has played in the Aviva A League for English premiership side Exeter Chiefs.
On finishing his exercise and sports science degree, the 24-year-old was convinced by Fleming – who he also played with at the Taunton Titans in national league two – to make the move to Hong Kong.
Part of the HKRU’s elite rugby programme, Hartley will become eligible to play for Hong Kong in August of this year and says playing in a World Cup “would be the dream”.
But first things first, and with Scottish taking on Natixis HKFC on Saturday, Hartley knows each and every game is crucial in the race for the league championship.
“We want to go three from three before the break for Chinese New Year and if we beat Football Club we will achieve our first goal,” he said.
Scottish have been boosted this season by the inclusion of Josh Dowsing and Lars Morrice from the development programme of Super Rugby’s Chiefs, who Hartley says have had a big impact on the squad.
“Josh is quality, he has brought a lot of oomph and he has a lot of input in training sessions,” he said.
“Lars is a bit of a man mountain, he is massive. He is great in the lineout, great under the high ball and he is just hard to bring down.”
Elsewhere this weekend, Valley take on Tigers and HKCC face Kowloon.
In the KPMG Women’s Premiership, CPM Gai Wu Falcons and HKFC clash, Tigers lock horns with Valley and Kowloon host SCAA First Pacific CWB Phoenix.