HKRU Premiership

Valley’s Leroy van Dam ‘keen as for more rugby’ after swapping New Zealand’s Mitre 10 Cup for Hong Kong Premiership

The 24-year-old is strong in the centres as his side win a thriller against Scottish thanks to a Ben Rimene drop goal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 December, 2017, 8:24pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 December, 2017, 3:20pm

He’s hit the ground running in the Old Mutual International Men’s Premiership and Societe Generale Valley back Leroy van Dam says he’s “keen as for more rugby” after recently arriving in Hong Kong.

The 24-year-old, who played for Otago in the recently concluded Mitre 10 Cup in New Zealand, got a first-hand look at the famed Valley spirit on Saturday as they snuck home 41-39 against Scottish thanks to a last-gasp Ben Rimene drop goal.

“We didn’t finish as highly as we would have liked [at Otago] and I didn’t get much game time towards the end so I’m keen as for more rugby,” Van Dam said.

“I’m pretty stoked to get away with a win like that. The ground is a lot harder here compared to New Zealand with the grass and it makes it so much faster, so I’m pretty gassed by the end of the game.

“I prefer the quicker game, especially on a wide pitch like this with a bit more room, that’s what I like.”

After hearing from fellow Kiwi Sean Conner about a vacancy in the Valley backline, Van Dam jumped at the chance to make the move to Hong Kong.

He lined up in the centres alongside Conner on Saturday but has also played full back in a career that has featured involvement with the New Zealand under 20s and appearances at three Mitre 10 Cup teams – Manawatu, Bay of Plenty and Otago.

He’s also trained with the Auckland Blues and hopes his time in Hong Kong will help drive him closer to his goal of playing professionally.

“The ultimate goal is to crack full professional rugby. Super Rugby is definitely a goal back home but now I’m over here I’m not sure where it is going to lead,” he said. “I want to at some stage in my life play Super Rugby, but at the moment I’m just focusing on here.”

Van Dam has now played three games at Valley and has slotted in nicely to a team that is loaded with New Zealanders: “It’s crazy, I didn’t even know that. There are a lot of Cambridge boys around here, Hautapu boys.”

The game was a try fest, with Scottish building a 22-14 half-time lead thanks to tries from captain Kane Boucaut and fellow forwards Shea Turner and Kyle Sullivan.

Hautapu connection at work again as Ruan du Plooy helps Valley make it five on the trot

Valley then clawed their way to an eight-point lead in the second half as Rimene, Taukiha’amea Koloamatangi and Carl Marks all dotted down, before Scottish tries to Boucaut and powerhouse Conor Hartley gave them a one-point lead in the dying stages.

After what seemed like an endless string of phases, Rimene – himself from Cambridge – stepped up and secured victory for a Valley side that does not know how to lay down.

“I said to the guys after the game, it’d be nice to actually string those together during the game,” Valley coach Andrew Kelly said. “I don’t know how many phases that was but it was fantastic ball retention, I’d just like that to be our stock standard during the game.”

How best mates Ben Rimene and Lee Jones cut path from NZ to Hong Kong Sevens coalface

The weekend’s other matches saw Natixis HKFC thump a sad and sorry Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC 87-17, while Kowloon brought an end to the Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers’ five-game winning streak, saluting 27-22.

In the KPMG Women’s Premiership, the Tai Po Dragons took down Kowloon 22-12, the Gai Wu Falcons proved too strong for HKFC, winning 29-12, CWB Phoenix saw off City Sparkle 38-8 and Valley won 30-15 against Tigers.