HKFC claim statement win over Valley in Old Mutual International Premiership
The Sports Road side give outgoing coach Phil Bailey the perfect farewell gift as they defeat Societe Generale Valley 37-3
Natixis Hong Kong Football Club coach Phil Bailey was farewelled in grand style in his last outing in charge at Sports Road, as his side posted an emphatic 37-3 win over rivals Societe Generale Valley.
Bailey who had stressed the need for consistency ahead of the match was delighted with the result, saying: “We got everything right today: reducing errors, keeping the ball in hand, good communication; we’ve put in back-to-back performances now, which was exactly what I wanted and was very pleasing.
“We could have eased off but we didn’t, we went for the five points we needed to go top of the table and we got them. It was a fantastic way to end my stint with the team,” said Bailey.
The bonus point win, sealed by a second half brace of tries from captain Mitch Andrews, gives HKFC the upper hand on points differential in a three-way tie atop the Old Mutual International Premiership table with Valley and Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers – who ruined Bloomberg HK Scottish’s seasonal send off at Shek Kip Mei with a 24-23 win. The loss adds to Scottish’s woes at The Rock as they have dropped their last two outings at home by a total of three points.
Football Club made an emphatic statement about their intentions post-break with a five-try demolition of Valley in a rekindling of Hong Kong’s most historic rugby rivalry. The ever-reliable Glyn Hughes got the hosts off to a positive start, notching two first half penalties as HKFC built to a 13-3 lead at the break.
Valley showed typical fire and brimstone early on, but were increasingly frustrated by a composed HKFC outfit, who not only escaped every Valley onslaught, but turned the ball over on key occasions in defence – leading to some dangerous counter-attacks that kept the visitors off-balance and off the board.
Football Club lock Jevon Groves proved a constant disruption on Saturday afternoon as he forced key turnovers that shifted momentum to the home side and contributed directly to several tries. Groves’s first turnover came deep in Valley’s half, earning HKFC an attacking scrum 25 metres from the line.
A massive Valley drive rocked Football Club’s pack back on its heels, but No. 8 Marcus Slade did well to corral the ball and evade the tackle at the back of the scrum, freeing up HKFC’s back line for the attack.
The ball eventually came to rest in the hands of wing Josh Birch who turned in a great finish, stepping nimbly through the defence to touch down for his fifth try in the last two games. Hughes’ conversion was successful and Football Club extended their lead to 10-0.
Valley’s only score of the afternoon came midway through the half as Ben Rimene slotted a penalty after referee Tim Baker, who today was announced as part of the World Rugby panel for the Women’s Six Nations, pinged HKFC for offsides. Hughes replied with his second penalty moments later to extend Club’s lead to 13-3 at the break.
Groves was again omnipresent in the second half, popping up at opportune moments to stifle key Valley drives. HKFC capitalised on another Groves turnover shortly after play resumed, and this time it was Ben Axten-Burrett who benefited.
Axten-Burrett found the gap in the line, sprinting 50 metres up field and forcing the onrushing Valley attackers to furiously back-pedal in defence. Axten-Burrett offloaded to onrushing centre Tom Isaacs who laid on a perfect pass for wing Marno Meier to cap a 75-metre drive with a try in the corner, pushing HKFC’s lead to 18-3 after Hughes’ conversion was off the mark.
A frustrated Valley pack redoubled their efforts, but HKFC’s forwards were equal to the task, with hooker and captain Mitch Andrews leading the charge from the front. In the 63rd minute, Andrews showed great awareness to finish another foray in Valley’s half with a try beneath the posts, pushing the lead to 25-3 after Hughes’ conversion.
Minutes later, fly half Russ Webb set Groves into space along the blindside with a perfectly timed slip pass. Groves made significant chunks of territory before he was felled, but managed to keep the ball alive and pop a pass off the deck to Webb running in support. Webb quickly shipped the ball to Hughes who crossed the line untouched for the try. Hughes missed his conversion but Football Club led 30-3.
The hosts never let up and Andrews scored his side’s third try in the space of ten minutes with a mirror version of his first effort, as he crossed the line at the Sportsman’s Bar end of the pitch to the delight of the home fans and Football Club sealed the rout 35-3.
Valley coach Andrew Kelly was left ruing his side’s lack of possession: “They were far more accurate than us and took their chances. In the first half we put some phases together and pulled back three points but we couldn’t build on it. We just couldn’t keep the ball.”