13 Nov 2020

Bloomberg HK Scottish take on DAC Kowloon RFC in the Saxo Markets Premiership game of the week on Saturday at King’s Park, (kick-off 14.00).  Round two’s other fixtures see Societe Generale Valley meet Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers at King’s Park at 16.00, while Natixis HKFC play at home for the first time this season against Herbert Smith Freehills HKU Sandy Bay in a Broonie Quaich clash at 15.30.


The game of the week should be a close run affair with both sides having early frustrations to put to rest after their season openers - Kowloon letting a winnable game with Valley slip its grasp, while Scottish’s failure to fire against Sandy Bay leaves them needing to hot up this week.  Kowloon had the better opener and has the league’s sole bonus point to show for it, after their loss within a converted try (7 points) put them mid-table. Club and Valley are co-leaders along with Sandy Bay, while Scottish and Tigers are waiting to get off the bottom.


“We were pretty disappointed that we didn’t fire last week,” said Scottish coach Craig Hammond.


Scottish are hampered by injuries to Hong Kong forwards Dayne Jans (hooker), Faizal Solomona (prop) and Mike Parfitt (flanker) who will again see their first appearances of the year delayed. Help is on the horizon however as the club has two more international signings, a pair of props out of Australia, on ground but still in quarantine at present. They should be available for a pivotal clash against Valley in round three, but for now hooker Harry Baron, and props Brad Tuff and former U20s rep Mikkel Christensen will hold down the fort again.


“We really struggled in our set piece and lineout and that had a massive knock on effect. We also gave up too many simple penalties. The senior players have stepped up and taken responsibility and it has been a great response. The boys know they didn’t put their best foot forward and we are after putting that right on Saturday,” said Hammond.


He knows that is easier said than done in this league: “Kowloon look good and were a bit unlucky that the result didn’t go their way. They are well drilled and have a lot of strike power with Jack Neville, Lewis Warner, Bryn Phillips, and James Cunningham. Their new players also look useful. I’d think they would be disappointed with how they would have done last week, and that makes them dangerous,” Hammond added.


For his part, Kowloon coach Scott Sneddon is hoping his charges are now more accustomed to the Premiership grind: “Hopefully, we got a little rust out against Valley. I imagine there are still some very sore bodies out there, but it was more frustration for us after Saturday. We need to win those games, and certainly we had the opportunity to win it. Having said that, there were a lot of positives to focus on, if we continue to concentrate on our own performance.”


“It’s always pretty tasty between us and Scottish and we need to make sure we don’t allow easy tries like last week. Our set piece accuracy is really important and we need to take our opportunities better in the red zone; just be more patient, and take what the game gives us, especially against Scottish who have threats all over.

“They have a good back row and are good defensively over the ball, their halfbacks are lively and experienced, and they have some new attacking options. We need to limit them offensively.”

Sneddon doubted there was much advantage up front, saying, “We need to focus on our own performance honestly. Our set piece was okay not great last week, and we’ve been in their position with poor numbers at key spots. Those guys aren’t making up the numbers. There are good players all over this league, and they played good rugby on Saturday. They will want to keep those jerseys, so we have to be ready.”


Even with hindsight, the frustration at leaving the pitch with only a bonus point last week is tough to couch for Sneddon: “It’s still hard to talk about it, given we wanted more, but we didn’t get a lot of bonus points last year - and we missed out on the play-offs narrowly because of it. You need to get them, and with only 10 rounds that could be vital.


“We talked a lot about that approach at training. Getting the bonus, closing out games, we can’t keep saying next week, or next game. We don’t have that luxury with only ten games.”


The men from the Met

Good outings from new signings offered more positivity for Kowloon, with prop Tom Concu and fly half Harry Johnston both showing well on debut. Concu and Johnston are part of a wave of players from the UK’s Cardiff Metropolitan University (Cardiff Met) coming to play in Hong Kong, both at Kowloon - where they join alumni Sneddon and winger Huw Alexander - and other clubs.


Through his contacts with Met’s Director of Rugby Danny Milton, Sneddon was sniffing out a few others to come across this season, but with Tom Bristow staying on for another tilt, he helped Met prop Harrison Dobbs link up with other clubs. The ex-Wales u18s forward was snatched up by Tigers, where he slots in alongside fellow front rower, and another Met alumni, in prop Ian Etheridge. While Dobbs slipped Sneddon’s grasp, his teammate Johnston should prove handy - having scored 192 points for his uni last season.  Cardiff Met is a member of the UK’s BUCS university sports Super Rugby set-up, playing against Britain’s nine other top rugby schools, including cross-town rivals Cardiff University, Kowloon captain Jack Neville’s and scrumhalf Bryn Phillips’ alma mater.