PLA give Cricketers a fright

Arlidge, Bisley cross for hat-trick of tries as HKCC find their feet after stuttering start

Synovate Hong Kong Cricket Club thought it was only a matter of turning up at Aberdeen Sports Ground yesterday to grab the points and saunter off into the afternoon sun, but Laxton PLA hadn't read the script.

The mainland team played some brilliant running rugby to take an early 12-0 lead and within 15 minutes of the start had increased their advantage to 19-5. They ran out of steam in the second half however to lose 64-26, but not before putting in their best performance of the season and giving HKCC a scare they could have done without.

Alas for them, and as is the case with the PLA side over the years, they just ran out of puff after the break and did not have sufficient depth in their squad to sustain their challenge.

'I couldn't have asked for any more of my players,' PLA coach Liu Yong said. 'The first half was some of the best rugby we've played in a long time. It's a pity we lost our shape in the second half, but it was a very positive performance for us and despite the final scoreline it's very encouraging.'

Early tries from Sun Tao and Jing Yue, with Jing then converting his try put PLA 12-0 up, and put worried looks on the faces of the HKCC coaching staff.

Although Colin Bisley scored a try to narrow the deficit Cao Zhiweng finished off a superb flowing move to extend their lead to 19-5.

Gradually though HKCC found their feet to run out deserved winners, but if their coach Richard Cooke was getting a round in at the bar last night to celebrate, he should buy a few extra cool ones for his flyhalf Garth Arlidge and centre Bisley.

Arlidge and Bisley ran in three tries each, with Arlidge kicking seven conversations for good measure. The New Zealand duo accounted for 44 points of their side's 64-point total, which illustrates exactly how much HKCC are dependent on them. Both scythed through the PLA defence almost at will, creating space for other players when not skating through to score themselves. They were a class apart throughout.

Bisley has arguably been the best player in Hong Kong over recent years, but in the shape of Arlidge he may have a contender for the title. The flyhalf played for the newly formed Nelson Bays and Marlborough NPC side in New Zealand last year, the Tasman Makos, and has made a huge impact for the club since his arrival here last November.

'It was pretty evident early on that they weren't down here just to make up the numbers and they definitely caught us cold,' Arlidge said.

'We were a bit shell-shocked as we didn't expect to get off to such a bad start, but credit to them they put it up to us. We did make life difficult for ourselves by making some mistakes but once we got going we were able to put some points on the board and get back into the match.'

Arlidge indeed was the man when it came to putting points on the board and his arrival in Hong Kong couldn't have come at a better time for HKCC.

'It's a big change from New Zealand, but I'm really enjoying myself here. There's a good group of guys at the club and it has been a great experience so far,' Arlidge said.

'We had a bit of a wake-up call today, which is no bad thing, but we've kept our unbeaten record and want it to stay that way for the rest of the season.'

Apart from the Arlidge and Bisley Show, tries from right wing Eric Li, hooker Wayne Whitney, flanker Will Wong and scrumhalf Kane Jury rounded off a competent day at the office for HKCC, while Chen Zhonghao got a consolation effort for PLA which Jing converted.