24 Oct 2015

USRC Borrelli Walsh Tigers have shown they are more than early season favourites by defeating Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish 27-23 in a pulsating encounter at King’s Park on Saturday night.

In other games of the Hong Kong Rugby Union Premiership yesterday, Societe Generale Valley escaped with a 11-6 win over Sabre Kowloon on their home deck despite being well below their best, while Natixis Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC) scored a narrow 19-13 win over Leighton Asia Hong Kong Cricket Club (HKCC).

At the conclusion of Round 4, Valley remain on top of the Premiership, with a game in hand over the second-placed Tigers, who leap-frog Scottish. With their narrow defeat today, Kowloon have picked up a bonus point and are on the board.

Saturday’s game of the round at King’s Park between the second- and third-placed teams in the league, had all the hallmarks of a great game, and it delivered.

The margin never exceeded seven points, but it was the Tigers’ tactical edge that got them over the line. After a solid start to the year that has had people talking about a reversal of fortunes for one of the Premiership’s strugglers, the win lends genuine credibility to the Tigers’ chances this season.

“We were confident that we had the right plan,” Tigers coach Craig Stewart said. “We were confident that we knew how they would play and that we had a plan to stop it. I’m really happy with the result and happy with the guys. It’s pretty significant for us as a team.”

Scottish looked lively in the first few minutes, drawing a penalty kick that flyhalf Diggy Bird – who returned from injury – converted to open the scoring. However, the strength of the Tigers forward pack was soon on show as they did the majority of attacking, with fullback Casey Stone running on to a creative kick from centre Tyler Spitz to score the first try of the match.

The teams traded blows throughout the remainder of the first half, with both creating scoring opportunities. The plucky Tigers seemed to have all the answers for their more-fancied opponents and with the scores locked at 13-all at the break, the prospect of an upset looked very real.

Scottish scored early in the second half and momentarily looked the better side, but the Tigers kept firing back. Tigers centres Spitz and Braam Gerber defended brilliantly throughout, willing their team on.

“We stuck to it and when we got it right it was really good,” Stewart said. “For example, in defence we knew they where going to try and go through the middle of us and we shut them down. We put them on the deck and put them under pressure. We grew from that defensively.”

The performance from Scottish was by no means poor, with their forwards taking it to a Tiger pack that has garnered praise in the opening rounds of the season. Scottish matched their opponents in many areas of the game, but gave away too many penalties at key times.

“It was just a couple of poor decisions on our behalf and they capitalised on them,” Scottish general manager and centre Bryan Rennie said. “We didn't take them lightly. We knew it was going to be a physical game.”

Rennie is confident the tight hit-out will benefit his side in the long term. “I think there is quite a few ‘work-ons’,” Rennie said. “I think it is also just a learning curve for some of the players when the pressure is on. You know, just go back to basics and nail the points when they are on offer. I would say that is the main learning curve for us, just adjusting when our backs are against the wall.”

Bird showed his importance to the side in his first game back from injury, kicking with precision both in front of goal and in general play on his way to 13 points, while David Whiteford was impressive after replacing Ben Tyler at fullback. Captain Kane Boucaut and prop Jack Parfitt scored the tries for Scottish, both from driving mauls.

Scrumhalf Matt Price was deadly in front of the sticks with 14 points and second rower Craig Lodge was everywhere for a Tigers side that is well aware it will now become one of the Premiership’s hunted.

“I guess now the challenge is that people will start to see us as a bit of a challenge, so that is something we have to be aware of,” Stewart said. “We are not interested in resting on what we are doing at the moment, we think we can get better.”

At Happy Valley, Societe Generale Valley got home over Sabre Kowloon by a single try. Kowloon might consider themselves unlucky not to topple the competition leaders after leading narrowly at half time, thanks to the first half’s sole score, a Chris McAdam penalty.

Valley dominated the scoreboard in the second half, with a series of penalties and the game’s sole five-pointer, dotted down after a drive from a lineout, interrupted only by a second McAdam penalty.

Valley coach Jack Isaac took nothing but the four points out of his side’s scrappy victory, and he struggled to name a single player who performed for the ladder-leaders.

“We didn’t come down to play rugby,” Isaac said. “Our discipline was extremely poor and we were losing in every aspect of the game. We were well, well, well below par. A win after that is a huge result.”

It was a gallant effort from winless Kowloon, with winger Tom Bury leading the way. They gained their first points of the season for losing by less than seven and while this was heartening for coach James Scaysbrook, he rued his side’s missed opportunities.

“It was a bit disappointing,” Scaysbrook said. “We didn’t apply enough pressure and we didn’t convert our opportunities. That being said, it was a really good team effort.”

The win ensures Valley remain undefeated after four rounds, although the game is sure to act as a wake-up call. Kowloon will be hoping they can build on their performance and start turning gutsy losses into wins.

In Saturday’s third game, Natixis Hong Kong Football Club overcame Leighton Asia Hong Kong Cricket Club 19-13 at Aberdeen.

The Cricketers lead for most of the first half and played with commendable passion, as they celebrated the life of Tom Nelson, who passed away earlier this week. The union and Hong Kong’s rugby community send their condolences to Tom’s family, friends and teammates.

Football Club were boosted by new recruit Canadian prop Andrew Tiedemann, who suited up for his maiden hit-out in the Premiership after arriving in Hong Kong fresh from a World Cup campaign in Britain. Hong Kong-capped Niall Rowark scored his side’s only try and kicker Gavin Hadley delivered the remaining 11 points.

“It was a pretty dominant display by us,” HKFC director of rugby Will Thomas said. “A win is a win at the moment for us, but if we’d have won more comfortably we’d have been happier.”

The win keeps HKFC in touch with the top three, while HKCC are in desperate need of win with only one victory from their first four games.

In the Women’s Premiership, Societe Generale Valley Black Ladies beat Natixis HKFC Ice 52-0, CPM Gai Wu Falcons knocked off Sabre Kowloon Ladies 63-0 and SCAA First Pacific CWB Phoenix CWB held out Transact 24 Tai Po Dragon Ladies 19-7.