27 Nov 2021

It was a difficult Dettol Premiership day for DAC Kowloon as they

lost 40-15 to KPMG HK Scottish in the Men’s Premiership, while the women lost 18-14 to Gai Wu Falcons.

A laundry list of injured players finally caught up with Kowloon’s men’s side while HK Scottish found the complete performance they have been chasing for much of the season with a six try victory. The game opened with fireworks after back-to-back-to-back tries in the opening ten minutes with Scottish jumping out to an early 12-5 lead.

Playing his natural position of scrumhalf after plugging holes in the backs Scottish nine James Christie opened the scoring with a sniping run from the base of a scrum near Kowloon’s sticks, as he stepped two defenders for the score. Fong Kit-fung replied immediately for Kowloon, capitalizing when the Scottish forwards let the restart go to ground. The ball bounced perfectly for the onrushing Fong giving him his 5th try in nine matches, and levelling the scores at 5-5. Kowloon returned the favour in allowing Scottish in for a quick score through centre Mike Green, who made an impact in his first game back from suspension. Green’s try put Scottish up 12-5 after fullback Sean Taylor’s conversion.

A fourth try came before the quarter-hour. Green was involved again after he charged down a clearance kick that was collected by Cameron Smith who scampered home from 20-metres to make the score 19-5.

Their pride wounded, Kowloon dug deep to mount their first sustained foray in Scottish territory, but a strong defensive effort kept them from scoring. Scottish prop Ben Nelson was sent to the bin after three successive penalties but even with the numerical advantage Kowloon failed to take much points, only adding a penalty through fly half Michael Hanning to close the gap to 19-8. Scottish secured a crucial bonus point before half time with its fourth try coming when Taylor grubbered the defence with winger Nicholas Bett collecting to make the score 26-8 at half time.

The scoring slowed dramatically in the second stanza, despite both teams creating chances. Scottish struck first just ahead of the final quarter when a series of crash balls stretched the defence to the limit. Christie kept the attack fluid by recycling well and eventually found match captain Ali Nardoni in the wide channel. Nardoni, a Hong Kong sevens squad member, showed good vision to draw the defence and create space for Jack Morris to touch down in the corner. Taylor’s conversion made it 33-8.

Prop Isaac Cavu made an impact for Kowloon when he came on in the second half. He finished off a positive period of play that began with a grafting turnover on the deck from winger Huw Alexander. That attack led to a Kowloon scrum, which they won, and five successive phases before Cavu got ball in space and battered through the line. The conversion brought the score to 33-15.

Playing without a dozen starters, and plugging the gaps with Premiership A players, Kowloon started to flag, and allowed Christie to collect his brace on full-time when he jumped over a stalled ruck for an NFL- style quarterback sneak to bring the final score to 40-15 after Taylor’s nudge.

Match captain Nardoni was delighted with his side’s performance, saying, “I’m really happy with the boys. That was a good bounce back for us after a tough loss to Club last week. Four tries by half time was nice and we improved a lot in our attack. There are still things to work on, but our patterns are taking shape. We are getting there.

“We slowed down a bit in the second and our set piece went to sleep. We have to be more ruthless, but we managed to get two more tries at the end and I can’t fault the effort.”

After halting a losing streak, Nardoni wants his side to build momentum: “They were second and we were second last coming in, so a bonus point win is big. Hopefully we can build off that and get our confidence going ahead of next week.”

In the Dettol Women’s Premiership match, Gai Wu coach Andrew Li finally got the fast start he was looking for as a blistering first ten saw Falcons perch on the Kowloon try-line, eventually scoring through Hong Kong prop Tammy Lau Nga-wun. Lau’s try was a result of intense and sustained pressure, with multiple phases fended by a spirited Kowloon defence. Gai Wu retained possession well and it was only a matter of time before a first try came. Ultimately it was a simple one with Lau picking up from the base of a ruck and finding a gap between the defenders and the posts to touch down. Stephanie Chan Chor-ki converted from in front to give Gai Wu a 7-0 lead.

Gai Wu were right back on the attack and again mounting pressure, but a penalty let Kowloon off the hook and they smartly poked it into Gai Wu’s half for a lineout. Good work by the Kowloon pack at the lineout put Gai Wu under pressure. The clearance from scrumhalf Wan Tsz-yau was charged down by Georgia Rivers, who collected the ball and drove play to beneath Gai Wu’s posts. Running a beautiful support line, Kowloon captain Chan Hiu-tung took the pop pass and dove across the line for a try against the run of play. The conversion was good and the scores were level 7-7.

Falcons’ feathers were unruffled, however, and they took the restart right back into the hosts’ half. Minutes later they created an easy overlap for Hong Kong fly half Stephanie Chan to score untouched as Gai Wu took the lead 12-7. Falcons controlled the affair for the rest of the half, creating numerous chances, but were unable to add to that margin and the score remained 12-7 at the break.

While the score flattered Kowloon for most of the match, some excellent play from the bench changed the complexion of the game in the final quarter with the maroon Loon charging back to close the gap to a single point. Lina Leudi helped fire the backline when she came on, while centre Shaye Whareaorere and scrumhalf Mak Ho-yee dug deep to give Gai Wu fits with their aggressive defence and counter- rucking.

In the final quarter it was Kowloon’s turn to create all the chances but have little to show for it by way of points. With the game on the line the absence of Kowloon’s fly half field general Montana Heslop was keenly felt, as Kowloon gave up much of their hard-earned possession with questionable kicking from hand.

Gai Wu had a chance to seal matters when they were awarded a penalty outside of the Kowloon 22, but Chan’s effort was short. Minutes later, Kowloon conceded an off-sides penalty in kicking range and Chan made sure with her penalty pushing Gai Wu ahead 15-7 inside the final five minutes. Just as it looked like the game was over, Kowloon stormed back with a pretty try to Chau Hei-tung who rounded two defenders out wide to score beneath the posts, making the conversion easy, and closing the gap to 15-14.

A crucial miscue at the restart handed Gai Wu back the ball in attacking position and they drove play to Kowloon’s five-meters before earning a penalty in front of the posts. Chan wasted no time in slotting it home as Gai Wu escaped with the 18-14 win.

Coach Andrew Li was happy with a whole team performance and a win over second ranked Kowloon: “It was the first time that we have started well, which was positive, and made a massive difference. We did some things better today, we played all the rugby in the first half and things really clicked out there. Our scores were coming in the corner and it showed that we were releasing our backs well.

“In the second half they came back, but tactically we kept scoring and taking the points when we had them. We were composed and didn’t switch off. It was a whole team performance. We still need to work on the little things, but we turned a corner today.

“Afterwards I said, we just beat number two [in the league], and that has kept us in the race for number four [the final play-off spot] which is our target now. We have Valley and Causeway Bay next, and should have some girls coming back in the New Year, so we will have a lot more options. We just need to keep in the fight,” Li added.