Club stay on course for clean sweep

HONGKONG Football Club, looking for a clean sweep of domestic titles, turned back a determined Valley challenge in an explosive Bell's Knockout Cup semi-final at Sports Road last night.

A try and a dropped goal in the last seven minutes gave Club a flattering 29-13 victory, which avenged their league loss to Valley at the same ground last year.

Defending Cup champions Club, who have already won the league and First Division Sevens title, take on Kowloon in the final on February 27.

First Division runners-up Kowloon had to work hard to beat British Forces 30-22 at Boundary Street.

About 1,000 spectators turned up expecting to see fireworks between the champions and a Valley side who are without a major title in two seasons.

Indeed, the intensity displayed by both sides resulted in several skirmishes with referee Noel Howcroft awarding a string of penalties.

Club fly-half Euan Weir had a successful night with the boot, with three of his four penalties coming in the first half, although it was Valley who led 10-9 at the interval thanks to unconverted tries from Pieter Schats and Stuart Krohn.

But Valley were denied a crucial score after 30 minutes when Schats found speedster Ashley Billington free on the left. Club full-back Justin Weston raced over to stop Billington with a crunching tackle.

A Schats penalty four minutes into the second half increased Valley's lead to 13-9, but Weir struck back almost immediately with an effort from the half-way line.

Club took the lead in the 54th minute with a slick set piece move that saw Ashley Jones canter over to score for Weir to convert.

Scrum-half Adam Adair delivered the killer blow seven minutes from time after the Club forwards had pushed over from a scrum. Weir completed the scoring in injury time with a dropped goal, making up for two earlier unsuccessful attempts.

Mike Seigne has withdrawn from the Hongkong sevens squad because of a knee injury.

Seigne was selected by national coach George Simpkin for a 14-man squad for the Canberra, Hongkong and World Cup Sevens. But complications in his left knee after recent surgery have forced his withdrawal.

Said Seigne: ''I think I will be fit in time for the Hongkong Sevens, but I'm unable to train and play at the moment and it would not be fair on George and the rest of the squad.'' Simpkin said he might not seek a replacement and keep the squad at 13.

The squad will take part in next weekend's Singapore Sevens represented by three different teams.

Stuart Krohn and Simon Litster will play for Valley, while Philippe Lacamp and Mark Thomas will be part of the Club side. The rest of the team will be part of the Police Old Bills Select side.

Club will have the toughest assignment in Singapore as they have been placed in the same preliminary group as Australian side Randwick.

Randwick were runners-up to the Hongkong national side at last month's Darwin Sevens.

The 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four, with the top two teams after a round-robin contest entering the main Ablitt Cup competition.

After the Singapore Sevens, Simpkin will pick a 10-man squad to compete in the Canberra Sevens, on March 13, and the Hongkong Sevens on March 27 and 28.

The whole squad will resume training after the Hongkong event before Simpkin picks another 10-man side for the World Cup Sevens in Edinburgh, Scotland, from April 16 to 18.