Jack Neville the hero as Kowloon pip Tigers to make grand championship final in Hong Kong Premiership
The fly half scores a late try to hand his side a 21-15 win and a clash with Valley next weekend
A late Jack Neville try saw Kowloon snatch a 21-15 victory over Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers in the Hong Kong Premiership on Saturday.
Kowloon will meet Societe Generale Valley in the grand championship final after Valley saw off Natixis HKFC 27-14 in a willing encounter.
Kowloon at one point led 14-3 but Tigers came surging back and led by a point in the shadows of the post, before Neville launched his match-winning run from near the halfway line.
“It’s great for the club to be in the final and I’m pleased for our lads,” Kowloon coach James Scaysbrook said.
“They have put in a lot of hard work this year. They’ve been building really well throughout the year and training very hard. But getting there is not what we want so we’ll be focussed on our week leading in.”
The match started quickly, with Kowloon looking the more likely early as Tigers struggled to settle.
Kowloon’s 11-point lead came on the back of tries to Jamie Tsang and Ben Madgwick and two Jack Neville conversions, before Tigers worked back into the game.
After earlier opening the scoring for his side, Robbie Keith booted his second penalty to drag the margin back to eight points with 10 minutes remaining in the opening half.
The start of the second half was a slog, with two Keith penalties trimming the margin to two points with 15 minutes remaining in the match .
The Tigers fly half looked the hero shortly after when he nailed a perfectly executed drop goal to give his side a one-point lead with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Tigers then kept control of the game through some smart kicking and a powerful line-out drive that got them within a few metres of their line.
However that forward foray ended with a penalty to Kowloon, who took the ball the length of the field to score the winning try.
“Winning like that is going to help with the morale, late wins are always great and every one feels good after them,” Scaysbrook said. “It’s not the first time we have come back and won a game at the death this year and it was unbelievable with the lads stepping up at the end there, they really dug in well.”
At Happy Valley, the home side took the ascendancy early, skipping out to a 10-0 lead after 20 minutes thanks to a try to Ruan Duplooy and a conversion and a penalty to Ben Rimene.
Former Super Rugby forward Martin Muller enjoying rugby at its purest as Valley advance in Hong Kong Premiership
After a hard-fought period in which neither team scored for more than 10 minutes, HKFC reeled in the deficit thanks to back-to-back penalties from the boot of Nate de Thierry and some strong work by Jevon Groves and Josh Afu.
“At half-time we were on the wrong side of the ref and fair enough, we weren’t rolling away and we were giving away penalties at the breakdown,” Valley coach Andrew Kelly said. “When we cleared that all up, we managed to stem the flow and I think that was the difference.”
The second half started with the score at 10-6 and again De Thierry benefitted from the good work of his teammates, kicking truly from close range to bring the margin back to a point.
The undermanned and unfancied Football Club kept coming, heaping the pressure on Valley and forcing them into mistakes.
But the momentum was well and truly back in Valley’s favour soon after, with a penalty to Rimene followed by a try to Matt Rosslee.
Rosslee’s try, converted by Rimene, pushed the margin out to 11 points inside the final 20 minutes but the visitors refused to lie down, hitting back through a try to winger Charlie Higson-Smith.
Max Page missed the opportunity to bring the margin back to within a try with the conversion attempt, however that mattered little when Duplooy dotted down for the second time to put the result beyond doubt.
“We are absolutely delighted to go through and that’s the positive out of it,” Kelly said.
“We’ve had a good season, some lows but generally we’ve worked hard as a group. I’d like to tidy up our tackle area a wee bit, our mauling play was awful and our line-outs are awful, so we’ll look at that.”