Kowloon’s giant-killing run prior to Christmas is at risk of being in vain as far as the league championship is concerned if they can’t take the points against Valley in round 11 of the Rugbypass.com Men’s Premiership this weekend.
The match is just one of a bumper line-up of games to get the competition rolling again after the break, with the USRC Borrelli Walsh Tigers hosting Bloomberg HK Scottish at King’s Park and Natixis HKFC welcoming Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC to Football Club, with both encounters kicking off at 4.30pm.
Kowloon travel to Happy Valley on Saturday for a 3pm start 13 points behind the reigning grand champions and, with only four rounds remaining after this week, a loss will leave them out of the race for top spot.
A win, however, would have James Scaysbrook’s third-placed side right in the hunt for a top-two position and the coach is hoping his side can pick up where it left off before Christmas.
“It’s a bit strange having so long off mid-season but I can’t wait to get back into it,” he said.
“It’s a good opportunity to close the gap on the top two but really we just want to get back the momentum we had before the break.”
Kowloon go into the clash knowing they can match Valley after trumping the competition pacesetters last time around and Scaysbrook are not expecting any surprises.
“The obvious thing against Valley is the set piece, we are going to have to scrummage really well and our line-out is going to have to function well,” he said.
“Off the back of those two things we were able to go well against them last time. On top of that, hopefully we can keep up the other parts of the contact area work we have been doing.”
While Valley have not been at their brilliant best this season, the side’s consistency and ability to find a way to win sees them again clear on top and a win this weekend will leave them in the box seat to secure a second league championship in a row.
Scottish are their closest threat and will be hoping to get back on track against Tigers after dropping their past two matches.
Tigers found some form with an impressive win over HKCC in their last outing and forwards coach and back-rower Sam Hocking knows now is the time to start getting things right.
“We’re rolling into the business end of the season so we are looking to create a little bit of form going into the play-offs and carry on playing how we want to play rather than letting the opposition dictate to us,” he said.
Scottish were the form side of the competition for a large part of the opening 10 rounds and Hocking knows they have class all over the park.
“The two new boys that they brought in through the Chiefs exchange (Josh Dowsing and Lars Morrice), they have bulked up their pack and added a different dimension,” he said.
“They are very effective in what they do and they have a strong kicking game. We want to play an attacking style of rugby, we want to keep the ball in hand and look to move the opposition around.”
For Scottish, who currently sit six points behind Valley, a win will keep them right in the hunt for the league championship.
HKFC and HKCC lock horns for the first time since round five back in October as the teams await a ruling on whether their last clash – which HKCC forfeited due to a lack of front-rowers – will be replayed.
HKFC found some form with consecutive wins before the break and are well placed to make a run for a finish in the top half of the ladder.
“We drew against Cricket Club last time and we are pretty evenly matched so it should be a good game, it will be very interesting,” coach Phil Bailey said.
“They have got a very good forward pack, I think both teams have got a few injuries but that is part and parcel for this time of year.”
One player returning from injury for Football Club is flanker Dan Falvey, who will be crucial against the grunt of Cricket Club.
Bailey is hoping to see more of what his side produced in the last two games before Christmas.
“We started to string things together well, we played some smart footy and we took the points when they were on offer and we applied pressure defensively,” he said.
“That’s what we are looking for this week again and when there is an opportunity to play fast, play fast.”
Cricket Club find themselves in the rare position of being at risk of dropping to last in the table after losing to bottom-placed Tigers before the break and will be equally keen to put in a good performance.