Rubicon's woe as Fuji take top title

FUJI capitalised on national champion Faheem Khan's absence to beat a depleted Rubicon on a countback of games at the Hong Kong Football Club yesterday to clinch the U2 Premier League crown.

Both teams went into the final round of the 15-week competition in joint first position with 52 points but Rubicon were without their regular number one because Khan is in Pakistan recovering from a kidney infection.

Khan contacted a virus when he was in Karachi for the Pakistani Open three weeks ago and has been ordered by the doctor to lay off all strenuous exercise for one month.

'I was speaking to Faheem on the phone two days ago and he sounded pretty weak,' said Hong Kong coach Chris Clark.

Mohammad Sadiq gave Fuji the opening rubber when he took only 23 minutes to stop Khan's stand-in, Rodney Bannister, 15-5, 15-9, 15-6.

Former Hong Kong champion Tony Choi Yuk-kwan, playing at number four for Fuji, was given a hard fight before overcoming Rubicon's Kevin Ryan 15-8, 9-15, 15-6, 15-12 to put his team on the threshold of victory.

Lai Tin-chu kept Rubicon in the fight with a 15-12, 8-15, 15-9, 15-8 triumph over Yang Man-sum and they could still have won the match if Richard Bolton had beaten Fuji's John Choi Wing-yiu in straight games.

Bolton and Choi put up a tremendous battle and the Rubicon number two won after a one hour and 15 minutes fight, but Choi played his part by taking two games before going down 15-9, 12-15, 15-12, 9-15, 15-12.

Rubicon captain and HKCC coach Bannister said: 'It's unfortunate Faheem couldn't be here because if he had been, I think we should have won this match.

'Faheem has been travelling quite a bit during the season and has missed a number of matches, and I think we have done very well to have finished second. I must give full credit to all the boys in the team.' Fuji finished the league with 56 points and pocketed $50,000 for winning the title while Rubicon received half the amount for finishing second on 54 points.

They also qualify for the play-off round which also involves Express News One, who are on 52 points, and Express News Two, who edged Perrier 4-2 at the Hong Kong Squash Centre for a 48 points total.

Perrier were 2-1 up after the first three rubbers but Asian junior champion Jackie Lee Chun-kit whipped Sunny Poon Yat-sing 17-15, 15-12, 15-4 in the last rubber to give Express News Two an 8-7 win on the countback of games.