02 Feb 2019

Natixis HKFC handed Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish its first home loss and notched its fifth straight win of the season after a commanding 40-6 victory in today’s Saxo Capital Markets Premiership game of the week.


Societe Generale Valley beat Kerry Hotels Kowloon, 36-27, while Herbert Smith Freehills HKU Sandy Bay beat Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers 29-17 in today’s other Premiership action, but all eyes were on the Shek Kip Mei fixture between first placed Club and second ranked Scottish.  


Scottish, who have seen their burgeoning depth eroded by injury in recent weeks, suffered a significant blow ahead of kick-off when fly-half Gregor McNeish was ruled out after a freak injury in the warm-up.  The loss of their midfield maestro complicated what was already a tough ask against Club, widely acknowledged as the deepest side in this year’s competition.


With the back-up tens already out injured for Scottish, winger Jarrad Mongston was drafted in at fly-half, making a good fist of things despite playing out of position. Adding to Scottish’s numeric woes was an injury to 18-year old Liam Dothery, whose first Premiership start lasted seven minutes before he was sidelined by a thumping tackle in what was one of the most physical encounters of the season.


Despite being undermanned, Scottish fought bravely across the opening half but had no answer for an HKFC side that is making a habit out of putting teams to the sword in the second half.


First-year coach Jack Wiggins was satisfied with another clinical effort from Club saying, “That puts us in a commanding position in the league, so we’ll take it; I think we made a bit of a statement today.


“They lost a few guys in the warm-up, which obviously affected them, but it was a good game and one of the most physical we’ve played. They were really physical and we stepped up to that level like we new we had to. It was a testament to the boys’ hard work.


“It was a good win, but we have two more games left and we need to keep the momentum and see where we can get to now,” added Wiggins.


“It was pretty desperate, but there are no excuses,” said Scottish coach Craig Hammond, who was forced to pull the boots on for the first time this year to help make up the numbers.


“Full credit to Club, it was tight at half-time and there was really nothing in it but then they took the pressure to another level in the second half,” added Hammond.


A competitive first half produced some of the most entertaining rugby of the season with the two sides generating plenty of attacking rugby, while each team’s defence proved up to the task. The two forward packs engaged in an entertaining battle with no quarter asked nor given, particularly at the scrum, which proved to be an entertaining battle right down to the last minute.

As the first half wore on, Club slowly but steadily established the upper hand, enjoying the lion’s share of the territorial advantage as they continuously pressed their attacks into the Scottish red zone.


That steady pressure netted the first scoring opportunity for Club’s metronomic fly-half Glyn Hughes after Scottish were pinged for not rolling away in the tackle. Hughes slotted the penalty for a 3-0 lead after four minutes.


The weight of possession inexorably shifted Club’s way down the stretch, but their first try would come against the run of play after Scottish fumbled the ball on an advantageous attack around mid-field.  


Club swooped on the pill and produced a freewheeling move that at one point saw the ball bounce off of a boot back into the hands of winger Sebastian Visinia, whose overhead pass found Niall Rowark in space for the opening try after 30 minutes as Club pushed their lead to 10-0 after the conversion.


Mongston put Scottish on the board for the first time eight minutes later when he converted his first penalty chance to close the gap to 10-3 at half-time.


The second half was one-way traffic for Club as they added 30 points to their half-time total, while Scottish could only muster a single penalty in the second half. Hughes opened the scoring with a 44th minute penalty to push the lead to 13-3, before Pierre Mounal replied for Scottish, closing the gap to 13-6 entering the final 30 minutes.  Club found fourth gear in the last half-hour, scoring four more tries and 27 unanswered points down the stretch.


Hooker Campbell Wakely started the scoring spree in the 50th minute, when the mobile front rower finished a great support effort to score out wide. Wakeley’s try was followed by a second penalty from Hughes, as Club pushed the lead to 21-6 with 20 minutes left.  


As Scottish flagged under the continuous defensive effort, space started opening in chunks in front of the Club attack. They quickly capitalized with Centre Nate De Thierry scoring in the 67th minute before late tries from Pat Jenkinson and Cris Pierrepont. Two conversions from Hughes gave Club the final 40-6 win.


With Football Club extending its growing buffer at the top of the table Scottish must lick its wounds and recover quickly in an effort to make their game in hand advantage on Club pay dividends after the New Year.


“That’s three losses on the bounce and it’s been a long time since that happened. The good news is we have a week off to recover and come back with three games afer CNY,” said Hammond.


“It [winning the Premiership title] is still doable. There is still opportunity if we can get a good run in those last three games and Club slips up a bit. We have to dig deep now and get better to take these opportunities.


“Club and Valley are peaking while we have dropped off a bit. We need to get back to where we were and that is a good challenge for us, it’s exciting,” Hammond added.


Today’s results leave Club with a growing grip on the Premiership title with two rounds remaining in the season.


HKFC improved their record to 10-3, good for 46 points, five ahead of tied-second Scottish, who were caught from below by Valley, on 41 points. Tigers, who slipped to a fifth straight loss this afternoon, are in jeopardy of losing out on the fourth and final place in the league standings and the resulting place in the Grand Championships.  Tigers are clinging to fourth place on 26 points while Sandy Bay’s win puts them within striking distance on 22 points. Kowloon improved their points total to 16 after securing a bonus point in the loss to Valley today.


Scottish and Sandy Bay both have a game in hand on the competition, and will play their re-scheduled fixture from before Christmas on 12 February, with the rest of the Premiership returning to action on 16 February.