Hautapu connection at work again as Ruan du Plooy helps Valley make it five on the trot
Latest recruit from the New Zealand club plays an important role as his side see off Kowloon 22-13 in the Hong Kong Premiership decider
Societe Generale Valley’s Hautapu connection was in full flight on Saturday as they posted a 22-13 victory over Kowloon to win their fifth consecutive Hong Kong Premiership grand championship.
Scrum half Ruan du Plooy is the latest player from the New Zealand club to join Valley via a link through the club’s director of rugby Deano Herewini and he has been a key player since coming on board mid-season.
Born in Pretoria, Du Plooy spent the last seven years in Hautapu and joins stalwart Nick Hewson, star fly half Ben Rimene and centre Lee Jones as players to make their way from the club to Valley.
The 24-year-old was prominent as Valley withstood an early Kowloon push to grind out a gutsy win on the back of 13 consecutive second-half points.
“I tell you what, I came in during the season and they were so welcoming,” said Du Plooy, who considers both South Africa and New Zealand home.
“Valley and Hautapu have an affiliation going on, Deano got in touch with me and asked if I wanted to come and play and I took the opportunity with both hands.”
Flanker Hewson described his fifth grand final win as “pretty special” and praised Du Plooy for the impact he has had this season.
“He’s added energy and he’s the fix we needed at that point in time,” Hewson said.
Hewson also heaped praise on coach Andrew Kelly, who guided Valley to the grand championship in his first year as coach after playing in the past four victories.
“His transition from being a player to a coach has been great, all the boys have got immense respect for him,” Hewson said.
“Full credit to Kowloon, they put in a good fight and we’re just lucky we got a bit of set piece dominance and held our nerve.”
After a tight opening that saw Valley lead just 6-3 at half-time, the game opened up after the break as Valley’s substitutes made their presence felt.
Rimene, who booted 17 points, extended Valley’s lead to six points early in the second half, before a try to Kowloon winger Thomas Bury saw his side back within a point and looking lively.
However fly half Jack Neville was off target with the conversion attempt that could have given his side the lead and Valley capitalised, with Rimene slotting two more penalties before substitute Reece Hamon crossed to seal the win.
Kelly admitted it was an unusual feeling watching such a big game from the sidelines, praising the work of man-of-the-match Grant Kemp and back Reece Hamon once they came off the bench.
“It’s strange, it’s completely more nerve-wracking, you have no control of what’s going on but I really enjoyed it,” Kelly said.
“We were fortunate to go in 6-3 at half-time. Kowloon had the territory, they broke us a fair few times and we did well to keep in there.
“We had the bench to come on and make a difference and Kempy did exactly that. Reece Hamon was spot on with everything he did.”
Kowloon’s Angus Dixon found a way through the Valley defence at the 72-minute mark but it was too little, too late.
“We have ultimately come up short tonight and giving away too many penalties has resulted in us losing, but I’m immensely proud of how they have played all year,” Kowloon coach James Scaysbrook said.
Valley’s women were also in the winner’s circle in the KPMG Women’s Premiership decider, holding off CPM Gai Wu Falcons 15-7 thanks to tries to Olivia Coady and Bella Milo.
“They’re an awesome bunch,” coach James Elliot said. “Obviously Bella stands out. To me she is the most talented female rugby player I have seen.”