Set pieces heating up in Hong Kong Premiership, says Kowloon prop Adam Fullgrabe
The 25-year-old stands tall as his side continues their mid-season resurgence with a 20-10 win over Cricket Club
Unlike previous years in the Hong Kong Rugby Union Premiership, Kowloon prop Adam Fullgrabe says “every single set piece is hotly contested” as the intensity continues to build in the competition.
Fresh off a gruelling shift against a powerful Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC forward pack in a game which his side won 20-10, Fullgrabe has noticed a marked improvement over the opening eight rounds.
“Technically in every single scrum, from last year playing and years gone by when I used to watch, in the set piece people would get tired and technically switch off, but it feels like now that every single set piece is hotly contested,” he said.
“No matter what the score is, everyone is just going for it.”
The 25-year-old, who played for Hong Kong in the recent Cup of Nations, is in his second season with Kowloon and is expecting continued improvement as the season wears on and the elite rugby programme continues to grow in effect.
“You could see in the Cup of Nations when everyone was switched on and we were in it, we looked good,” Fullgrabe said.
“When we switch off we don’t look good, but as the club game builds up and we get more and more of that pressure and tougher opposition working against you, it is just going to improve.
“You can see a lot of the programme guys going through and Valley, Cricket Club and Scottish are all really well drilled.”
Born in Perth, Fullgrabe moved to Hong Kong before his first birthday and stayed until the end of high school, playing a year for the Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers before heading to Sydney for university.
In Sydney, Fullgrabe played for Eastern Suburbs in the same competition as current Hong Kong and Kowloon teammate James Cunningham.
While joining the programme was part of the reason for his move back to Hong Kong in July last year, Fullgrabe also hopes to follow in his brother’s footsteps and become a pilot.
“I’ve got a commercial pilot license and a frozen air transport pilot licence,” he said.
“From here it’s just applying to Cathay or Dragon Air and hopefully getting through to their cadetship.”
It was a big afternoon for Kowloon against HKCC as they posted their third win on the trot and claimed the Broony Quaich in the process, with consecutive wins against Societe Generale Valley and the Cricketers bringing their season to life.
A willingness to attack, the creativity and drive of fly half Jack Neville, and the class of former England international Olly Barkley were crucial for Kowloon in an effort that pleased coach James Scaysbrook.
“It’s nice to get one of the traditional trophies in the competition,” he said.
“We’ve got that bit of momentum now with three wins in a row and its important that we continue to progress.”
Kowloon jumped out to a 10-0 lead through a penalty to Neville and a converted try to James Sawyer, before a penalty try saw HKCC drag the margin back to three points at the break.
The second half was all Kowloon as they also picked up a penalty try and Neville booted another penalty to ensure a comfortable victory.
The other matches saw Bloomberg HK Scottish leap to outright first on the table with a bonus-point 34-22 win over Natixis HKFC, while Valley were unconvincing in beating Tigers 15-10.
Valley beat Comvita City Sparkle 64-5 in the final KPMG Women’s Premiership match of 2016, making a statement with a huge win despite having eight of their regulars absent on international duty.
“I’m so proud of them,” coach James Elliot said.
“We had so many players come into the game today, many of them playing out of position and knowing we needed them to play a huge amount of minutes, and they really came through. Some of the girls played more minutes today than they have all season.”