26 Jan 2019

Natixis Hong Kong Football Club beat Kerry Hotel Kowloon 48-10 today at King’s Park. The bonus point win, combined with a 25-24 upset by Herbert Smith Freehills HKU Sandy Bay over Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish, helped Football Club claim top spot on the Saxo Capital Markets Premiership table with three rounds remaining. Societe Generale Valley inflicted a 66-7 loss on Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers in today’s other Premiership match.

The loss for Scottish was the first time they have dropped two straight in the campaign, while Club were celebrating a run of four straight wins for the first time this season.

“We were talking about winning four on the bounce in the week,” said a delighted HKFC coach Jack Wiggins, who has his side primed to claim the Premiership title in his first year at Sports Road.


“We hadn’t yet done that, but we knew at half-time we were in it and that we probably had more in the tank for the second half, and that kind of proved to be the fact.”


The first half was a contrast in styles as Kowloon tried to turn Football Club’s forwards around with plenty of open field kicking to space, but Club’s back three proved up to the task, rendering Kowloon’s first option kicking game predictable and nullifying the effects early on.  Club meanwhile were more than content to keep the ball in hand, spurred on by some immense ball carrying from first year players Sam Pim and hooker Cameron Wakely.


Wakely did real damage with ball in hand today, managing to amass significant metres in his carries while also contributing to Club’s second half points explosion with a wide looping pass that found new winger Sebastian Visinia wide open for a try.


Kowloon were brave in defence as ever, but as the first half wore on it was clear that the pressure and tackle count would eventually take a toll.  Despite the sustained pressure, Kowloon snuck the first points over when fullback Iwan Phillips slotted a penalty in the 6th minute. The 3-0 lead was erased soon after by Club fly-half Glyn Hughes, whose penalty leveled matters at 3-all.


From there on out it was Football Club that enjoyed the lion’s share of the first half ball but they failed to string enough phases together to convert that plentiful possession into points.


“We were our own worst enemy in the first half, too many leaky turnovers in possession and we coughed up the ball in wide areas and made it difficult for ourselves,” confirmed Wiggins.


But something had to give on Kowloon’s end, particularly after losing three players to injury in the opening half, losses they couldn’t afford after entering the match against Hong Kong’s deepest side at 80% of their pre-season strength.


Club, meanwhile, have added even more pieces with Wiggins calling up two of his players from New Zealand for the final push, in winger Visinia and prop Jake Simeon who played in NL1 today.  


Visinia, a former Auckland U19s, looked dangerous in breaking the 3-3 deadlock in the 20th minute after capping off another multiple-phase attack for Club, who had steadily built pressure over a dozen phases beneath the Kowloon posts before looping it out wide.  The towering Visinia did well over the last five metres to touch down in traffic for the try.


Hughes’ conversion in a blustery wind was off leaving Club with a disappointing 8-3 lead at the half.  


Wiggins would get his message through at the break: “It was pretty clear, keep the ball in hand, be composed, go through our phases and they will break,” he said.


That advice proved spot on as Club were ruthless in the third quarter, posting four tries in 15 minutes to secure the bonus point and put matters to rest early.  Hong Kong lock Fin Field scored Club’s first try after only three minutes, with flanker Callum McCullough stretching the lead again moments later.


Winger Niall Rowark and centre Tom Hill also found pay-dirt in the quarter before Visinia collected a brace on his Club debut in the 65th minute when he snagged a superb skip-pass from Wakely to push the lead to 41-3 after Hughes’ conversion.  


Kowloon’s only try came from some heady play by back rowers James Sawyer and James Cunningham. Sawyer caught Club sleeping with a quick throw-in to Cunningham at the lineout. Hong Kong captain Cunningham took the ball at pace and drove deep into Club’s red zone before off-loading to Sawyer in support for the try. Phillip’s conversion trimmed the deficit to 41-10.  


Unfortunately, Kowloon couldn’t hold the line in the final moments, conceding a last long try that was started and finished off by scrumhalf Jamie Hood. The try proved a bit of a gift after Hood’s pop pass to Rowark on the blindside wing looked forward on the replay, but it was awarded and Rowark’s conversion gave Club the final 48-10 victory.  That result sends a clear message to the rest of the league about Club’s intentions.


“We’re certainly heading in the right direction and our momentum is building,” said Wiggins.


“The first couple of months were tough as we put new systems in place, but as the guys take more ownership and become more comfortable in the system, its getting easier for us, and I think that shows when we’re playing.”


Club’s strength will be put to the test by a now embattled Scottish next weekend.


“We have put ourselves in position now to win the league. After losing today, Scottish will be fired up, but if we can get parity in the set piece, and our statistics show that we are doing that very well over the past few weeks, we can take that into the game and be a tougher challenge. “


“We’ve shown that we have a talented side and we’re here to play rugby. Let’s hope that carries over next week,” concluded Wiggins.


Scottish will be kicking themselves after letting slip a 24-6 lead in the 50th minute against Sandy Bay.  

Scottish led 17-3 at the break after a first half penalty try and a score from prop Jamie Pincott and a penalty and conversion from fly-half Gregor McNeish. No.8 Kane Boucaut extended the lead shortly after half-time with Scottish’s third try pushing the lead to 24-6 after two penalties from Sandy Bay’s Jack Metters.


Despite matters seemingly settled, Sandy Bay fought back brilliantly with Hong Kong sevens international Seb Brien scoring in the 53rd minute, followed by a try from Jack Lam to cut the gap to 24-18 entering the final ten minutes.


As they have done on several occasions this season, Sandy Bay proved dangerous in the dying minutes with Hong Kong scrumhalf Liam Slatem finding the gap to score a 73rd minute try setting up captain Gair Currie for the game-winning conversion as Sandy Bay won 25-24.


Flanker Toby Fenn and fullback Scott Davidson each accounted for two tries this afternoon with five other players getting on the try-scoring list in Valley’s 66-7 demolition of Tigers.  Fullback Casey Stone accounted for Tigers sole try in the 20th minute with fly-half Robbie Keith notching the conversion.