With the Hong Kong Sevens on the horizon, Valley’s Paul Altier hopes to use Premiership decider as launch pad to higher honours
The 18-year-old stands tall as his side hang on in a thriller against HKFC to set up a showdown with Tigers
Paul Altier has cemented his spot in the Societe Generale Valley starting 15 and now the 18-year-old is looking to use next weekend’s grand championship decider as a launch pad to higher honours.
Altier was reliable throughout at full back as Valley pipped Natixis HKFC 29-28 in Saturday’s Old Mutual International Men’s Premiership semi-final, looking right at home among a star-studded line-up.
“[Coach Andrew Kelly] has given me the start for a while now and it’s been super humbling and great to play around these guys,” Altier said. “Some of the players in our team have superb credentials and it’s great to be in the starting team alongside them.”
Altier has been at Valley since the age of seven but this is his first season of consistent Premiership action, while he has worked his way up through Hong Kong’s age grade sides.
He went to the Coral Coast Sevens in Fiji in January as a member of Hong Kong’s youth side and the trip has left him wanting more.
“It was a great experience, that was huge for me. To play against those Fiji guys with their flair was something else,” said Altier, who has been a full-time member of the men’s sevens programme at the Sports Institute since October.
Like so many young Hong Kong rugby players, the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens is Altier’s “ultimate”, but he knows he has to climb the rungs to a spot in Paul John’s senior side.
“That’s my goal, I’m just going to keep pushing to try and get in that starting 12. We’ve got Borneo coming up soon and my aim is to get on that and see how I go, it is our prep tour before the Hong Kong Sevens,” he said. “We’ve got good players, I’m young and I hope to crack it as soon as possible.”
But first things first, and Altier is pinching himself at the prospect of running out for Valley as they attempt to win a remarkable sixth consecutive grand championship.
“A year ago I didn’t think I would be playing in a final and now we’re there, I just want to go all the way, it would be insane to win it,” he said.
Valley were forced to fight tooth and nail for their passage to the decider after at one stage looking home and hosed with a 15-point lead in the second half.
After Josh Birch found the line first for HKFC, Martin Muller and Leroy van Dam crossed for Valley to give them a 15-11 half-time lead.
Valley then went on a rampage after the break, forcing a penalty try and then going further in front through a Tiger Bax touchdown as the score ballooned to 29-14.
But two tries to HKFC flier Max Denmark ensured a tense finish, with Andrew Kelly’s side holding their nerve when it counted.
“I totally commend the boys for the heart they put in, they are unbelievable,” Kelly said.
Valley take on the Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers in the final after they outlasted Kowloon 18-10 in an arm-wrestle.
In the KPMG Women’s Premiership, Gai Wu thumped Tai Po 63-0 and Valley edged Tigers 17-10 to ensure the fierce rivals will again lock horns on the last Saturday of the season.