Former Super Rugby forward Martin Muller enjoying rugby at its purest as Valley advance in Hong Kong Premiership
The 28-year-old’s enormous work ethic is on show in his side’s win over Football Club, while Kowloon defeat Tigers to join the reigning champions in next weekend’s decider
A journeyman with stints at three Super Rugby clubs, Valley second-rower Martin Muller says he is now enjoying rugby in its purest form.
The 28-year-old was a key player in Valley’s 27-14 win over Natixis HKFC that saw the reigning grand champions book a meeting with the weekend’s other winner, Kowloon, in the Hong Kong Premiership decider.
“Valley’s got a great community feel, it feels like rugby at it’s purest again,” Muller said.
“I have been in Hong Kong for about four months and I’m loving it so far, a great bunch of guys.”
From Cape Town, Muller first played for Valley just before Christmas and has settled in well thanks to a number of friendships made during his time playing in South Africa.
“Luckily for me there was four or five guys that I had already played with, so it was an easy adjustment,” he said.
“I played with Dayne Jans, Grant Kemp and Tiger Bax. Tiger and Dayne Jans I actually lived with in Cape Town.”
Muller, who played Super Rugby for the Lions as recently as last year and also played for the Cheetahs and the Stormers, considers his 2015 Currie Cup victory with the Lions as a career highlight.
He also played in the 2014 Currie Cup final and the final of a Junior World Cup and is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to step out in another big game.
“Valley traditionally have been a very successful team so it’s awesome to get to play in a grand final again,” he said.
Muller impressed coach Andrew Kelly with his work rate as Valley overcame a spirited Football Club side on Saturday.
“He’s just a workhorse, he’s been really good for us,” Kelly said. “We are absolutely delighted to go through, we’ve had a good season, some lows, but generally we’ve worked hard as a group.”
Valley led throughout but certainly didn’t have it all their own way despite taking an early 10-0 lead on the back of a try to Ruan Duplooy.
HKFC clawed their way back via three penalties to fly half Nate de Thierry and for a while took it right up to their more fancied opponents.
From 10-9, a Matt Rosslee try extended Valley’s lead but Charlie Higson-Smith hit back with one of his own to ensure HKFC were still thereabouts, only six points down with 10 minutes remaining.
But it was Duplooy who sealed the deal for Valley, again finding the line to send his side through to yet another grand championship play-off.
Ally Maclay was impressive for Valley and fly half Ben Rimene finished with 12 points from the tee, while for Football Club Jevon Groves battled hard throughout.
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Kowloon got the better of Tigers but not without an almighty fight, with James Scaysbrook’s side – who finished the minor round in second place – giving up an early 14-3 lead.
After tries to Jamie Tsang and Ben Madgwick saw Kowloon take control, Tigers worked their way back into the match.
Kowloon looked shaky under pressure in the second half and made a number of errors, with Tigers fly half Robbie Keith booting three penalties followed by an outstanding drop goal to put his side in front 15-14.
Just when it looked like the underdogs had done enough to snatch an unlikely win, Kowloon launched a length-of-the-field attack, with Jack Neville taking the ball near the halfway line and streaking away for the winning try.
In the KPMG Women’s Premiership, this year’s two outstanding teams in Valley and CPM Gai Wu Falcons won through to next weekend’s grand championship final.
Valley romped home in a 41-5 victory over HKFC while Gai Wu were forced to work for their passage, defeating Tigers 19-8.