11 Jan 2019

After a tight battle across the first half of the season, the KPMG Premiership returns with the eight clubs split into two competitions, an elite Premiership Top 4 and Premiership A, consisting of the bottom four ranked teams after the first half of the league.  The two divisions will remain separated through distinct Grand Championship play-offs and finals at the end of the season.

Unsurprisingly, Societe Generale Valley and Gai Wu Falcons, perennial finalists in the women’s game, have both secured spots in the Top 4 handily, while Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers are the surprise package at the elite edge as they look to close out a strong bid to disrupt the league’s dominant duo.

Tigers unseated Gai Wu 34-5 in November, helping them finish second in the table ahead of the split in the competition.  The King’s Park club rebounded from their only loss of the season to date - on the opening weekend against Valley by just 8 points, 21-29, to post six straight wins.  They have done it in style as well, running out a number of emerging Hong Kong stars in the early part of the competition and posting a league leading points differential of +318, 65 ahead of undefeated Valley.

The Top 4 Premiership kicks-off with a bang when the two clubs meet for the second time with Tigers out to erase the only blot on their copybook in tomorrow’s Game of the Week at KGV at 17.30.

Gai Wu will travel to face Kowloon at King’s Park at 18.00 in the other Top 4 match, while Premiership A matches see Transact 24 Tai Po Dragons host SCAA First Pacific Causeway Bay at 15.30 (EDUHK) while Plastic Free Seas City Sparkle play Natixis HKFC Ice at 18.00.  

Valley and Tigers enter tomorrow’s fray fresh after the break and both sides will be at full strength after the opening match between the two was played without Hong Kong’s sevens representatives who were away on national duty. For Tigers coach Fan Shun-kei that means there are no excuses for his promising young side.

“With our results in the first round and with our sevens girls coming back we have a good chance to have a real crack at Valley. There is no excuse now for us, it’s a 50/50 match and it is really going to depend on the player’s performance on the day.

“We have to execute in our set piece, and defensively we just need to make our tackles because Valley is a big team. We need to work hard on defence and make those first-up tackles,” said Fan.

With his squad returning from the holiday break Tigers had a walk-through session before implementing their game plan in what was a positive training session on Thursday.

“We had our first training yesterday but had a really good meeting on Tuesday. I have some new ideas that we want to try and implement, so hopefully they can put that on the park on Saturday. The girls are quite excited about this chance,” Fan noted.

Valley have ruled the roost in women’s rugby for much of the past decade and that consistency has once again come to the fore for the club in their undefeated run across the opening competition according to player-coach Bella Milo.

“For us, more consistency at training this season has been the difference. Last year, we had a few players missing key games, but this year it has been really good. The girls have all committed really well.”

But after being pipped for the Grand Championship and league by Gai Wu last season, Milo is aware that Valley cannot afford to rest on their laurels.

“There are always areas for us to improve, but we have particularly been working on our defence. In our last game against Gai Wu, they scored a few tries on the blindside and that is something we have been working on ahead of this weekend.

“Tigers are going really well.  Their score-lines have been quite big so I expect they are going to come at us with a big running game tomorrow.”

Echoing Fan, Milo expects tomorrow’s tie to be a case of who wants it more.

“It’s going to be exciting. It just depends on who turns up tomorrow, whoever turns up will win. For us, the key is to secure all of our set piece and disrupt their lineouts and scrums.

“The first half of the season was really good and gave us a chance to be build and develop a bit. Now with the split it gets more interesting, we’re pumped for tomorrow’s game but also really excited for next week against Kowloon,” Milo added.

A tight battle for fourth place ahead of the split saw Kerry Hotel Kowloon edge Causeway Bay with a win on the last Premiership weekend of 2018.  Causeway Bay routes to the top of Premiership A where they will contest the four-team competition with second ranked Natixis HKFC Ice, third placed Transact 24 Tai Po Dragons and Plastic Free Seas City Sparkle.