Reigning champions Valley ‘kickstart’ new Premiership season with gritty win over HKFC
Matt Rosslee’s boot makes the difference in a torrid encounter as captain kicks team’s first 15 points, while HKCC record a tough win over HK Scottish
A pair of dominant kicking performances lit up the HKRU Premiership’s season opening Super Saturday at King’s Park, with Valley’s Matt Rosslee and HKCC recruit James Love steering their sides to victory.
Reigning grand champions Societe Generale Valley again showed they have a will to win unlike any other, with recently Hong Kong-qualified Rosslee starring as they ran out 34-6 winners over Natixis HKFC.
In a torrid encounter that was anyone’s for the first 70 minutes, it was Rosslee’s ability to convert that gave his side the upper hand early.
“We knew we were only going to get a few opportunities here and there and the guy kicked everything,” new Valley coach Andrew Kelly said.
“He was superb and he organised the troops very well.”
Captain Rosslee booted Valley’s first 15 points in a performance that augurs well for Hong Kong ahead of November’s Cup of Nations.
A member of the elite rugby programme, Rosslee debuted for Hong Kong on the 15s tour of Kenya in August and it was his early brilliance that laid the foundations for Valley’s barnstorming finish.
Leading 15-6 with 10 minutes to go, a try to Tiger Bax opened the floodgates and Matt Bell and Grant Kemp also found the line to ensure Kelly’s coaching career got off to a winning start.
“It was a tough old battle in the first half and we just managed to convert the opportunities that we had,” Kelly said. “I think its just general composure from the guys. I think there are two very even teams; we just took the chances that we had.”
Valley’s New Zealand import Karetai Williams was impressive in his first game as his side retained the Broony Quaich, while for HKFC Ben Axten-Burrett and Niall Rowark were busy.
Love was also lethal in front of the sticks, scoring a total of 15 points as Herbert Smith Freehills’ HKCC recorded a tough 30-23 win over Bloomberg HK Scottish.
A Scottish side that have bolstered their playing ranks significantly over summer took it right up to last year’s vanquished grand finalists, but couldn’t quite find the extra gear needed.
“We’re delighted because its pretty obvious we’ve had a pretty tough week with what’s been happening behind the scenes and we’ve only had one warm-up game,” said HKCC interim coach Kevin West, who took the reigns after head coach Deacon Manu stepped down during the week.
After a dour start to the game, Scottish took the upper hand and at one point led 13-0 thanks to accurate kicking from Gregor McNeish and a try to Ewan Miller, but the experienced HKCC fought back to lead 20-13 at the half.
Proceedings again tightened up after the break and it took over 15 minutes for McNeish to notch the first points of the second half, before a penalty try sealed the win for HKCC.
In the final match of the day, Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers put a dampener on the opening of Kowloon’s 40th anniversary season, winning a lacklustre hit-out 17-7.
Meanwhile, the first round of the KPMG Women’s Premiership saw the top contenders from last season once again getting the results.
Societe Generale Valley started their bid for a third consecutive undefeated season in style running out 45-7 winners over SCAA First Pacific Causeway Bay Phoenix.
CPM Gai Wu Falcons, who were pipped by Valley 12-10 in last year’s Grand Championship, showed their intent to block Valley’s ambitions with an equally comprehensive 57-0 win over Kowloon.
Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers defeated Premiership debutants Comvita City Sparkle 45-3. All three clubs topped the table on five points after their opening round wins. Natixis HKFC Ice were on a first-round bye in the seven-team competition.