CLUBS LOOK TO YOUTH EARLY IN KPMG PREMIERSHIP RUNS  

04 Oct 2019

The action in the KPMG Premiership is heating up with the approach of the mid-point of the opening half of the season, with the eight teams to be ranked and split into major and minor Premierships in November.  

The first clash of the year between Gai Wu Falcons, (who along with Societe Generale Valley are unbeaten and share first place in the Premiership), and third-ranked Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers takes place at Kings Park at 18.00 tomorrow in the KPMG Premiership Game of the Week. In other action, Bloomberg HK Scottish Kukris play SCAA First Pacific Causeway Bay, also at Kings Park at 16.30, while Societe Generale Valley host Transact 24 Tai Po Dragons at Happy Valley (16.30) and Natixis HKFC travel to KGV to play Kerry Hotel Kowloon at 18.00.

The game of the week pits two heavyweights in an early season clash with Tigers looking to clip the wings of unbeaten Gai Wu and knock them from their top of the table perch. With undefeated Valley facing fifth-placed Dragons, the match against Tigers is an early must-win for Falcons if they want to keep their spot as co-leaders.

Tigers’ only loss has come at the hands of Valley back in week two, a 40-0 loss on a weekend when Hong Kong’s women’s sevens team were in action hampering the side’s strength in depth. Tigers constitute a large number of sevens squad members, including several emerging players for Hong Kong who also figured prominently in the club’s stirring grand championship run last season.

For both coaches, the result will be a key early season indicator of long-term progress, and much is riding on the emerging players in both outfits.

Falcons coach Lai Yiu-pang hoping this is another opportunity for his less experienced squad members to step to the fore.

“Our season didn’t start the way I expected, because some of key players were injured in the preseason and Chan Ka-yan has also hurt her ankle. So we have had to rely on our second tier and younger players, but we are seeing that they still need more game exposure and to build self-confidence.

“Given that we are transitioning now, the players, especially the young ones, have to stand up.

“They have to be able to face criticism and learn from their mistakes. We ask them to actively express their thoughts and feelings rather than just taking orders from the coaches, and also want to allow them to make those mistakes, knowing that that is how they will grow and be better players.”

Lai believes his squad has time to grow, and is targeting a finish in the top half of the league from early season action - and ultimately advancing to the major Premiership.

“We have a clear goal of securing a top four spot. We are facing some transition now and with our sevens team players not available, we are using this opportunity to build depth and develop. I am not overly focused on beating Tiger as we both have similar problems. Our strength is our forwards, while their backs are dangerous. I just hope we will grow and gain more confidence from the game, that is our long term goal,” said Lai.

Tigers coach Fan Shun-kei can rely on a somewhat more settled approach, saying, “We will keep the majority of the roster from last weekend, [a 58-5 win over Scottish], but are not yet at full strength due to the sevens squad being in training.”

Fan will be relying on his dangerous backs to keep the Tigers out of trouble.

“Gai Wu’s scrum is strong, and we have to match them in the contact areas, but we want to play in their half as much as we can, while at the same time we hope the new players can continue to adapt to our system, and to the speed and intensity of Premiership games.

“It’s really important that players raise their hands now and show they are capable of playing at the same level as the top players,” Fan added

Other clubs are in a similar position with similar goals, with new Causeway Bay coach Prince Wong also looking to gel her squad.

“It’s more about blending than rebuilding this season. We have many players playing new positions and basically our backline is completely new, so the whole team needs to learn and adapt to the new structure; hopefully, sparks will come from these new combinations. 

For Wong it is a slow process, but one that is progressing nicely. “As the season goes on our performance is getting better. I hope that improvement will continue.”

 

Scottish will put that development to the test and Wong is aware that the newcomers pose a threat: “Scottish are a young team and their energy level will not drop for the whole game. Their backs are speedy and each has a good kicking game. We need our forwards to perform, and to stick to our defensive plans in the backs to slow them down. We have also focused on our physical condition in order to maintain an 80-minute performance of our own.”

 

The goal for the squad reflects the current renovations. “A top six finish and keeping our spot in the Premiership is the immediate goal, but we have the talent to achieve, and will fight hard for a top four finish [and a spot in the major Premiership].”

 

SUBSCRIBE TO

OUR NEWSLETTER