04 Nov 2019

Natixis HKFC and Societe Generale Valley returned heavy wins over Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers (46-12) and Bloomberg HK Scottish (50-15) respectively in this afternoon’s Saxo Markets Premiership battles. Kerry Hotel Kowloon edged Herbert Smith Freehills HKU Sandy Bay 16-12 to complete the fourth of ten rounds in this season’s Premiership.


HKFC had an easy outing, helped by numerous unforced errors in the first half from Tigers at Sports Road. The hosts jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the opening quarter, paced by a natural brace from Tom Hill with fly half Glyn Hughes adding both conversions and a penalty early on.


In the 34th minute, Niall Rowark scored after playing keep away from the Tigers defence with centre Ben Axten-Burrett along the touchline. Tigers were bedevilled again on this occasion with wing Jake Myers losing his footing on the rush defence to create the initial gap for Club to score. Hughes’ conversion pushed the score to 24-0, and it looked as if that would be the extent of the damage but Tigers were pinged for offside near mid-field on 40 minutes. Hughes slotted the 45-metre kick to bring the score to 27-0 at halftime.


The second stanza saw more of the same with Club nearly crossing over twice in the opening five minutes, after Tigers bobbled the ball deep from the kick-off before forcing a speculative pass under pressure that nearly produced an intercept try. On the next possession, Club almost scored against the run of play after Hughes collected a loose kick and delivered a cross-field kick-pass that was just out of winger Eremia Tapsell’s reach.


After struggling with six lost lineouts in the first half, hooker David Tang stabilised his throw-ins in the second stanza. He was helped by a wise decision to throw short with Jevon Groves taking the ball at the front of the line and driving to the Tigers’ 22-metre line. Five or six bashing short runs from Club nestled prop Ronan Donnelly against the post pads for a muscular try to push the lead to 34-0.


Tigers mounted their first sustained attacks down the stretch, moving the ball inside Club’s redzone on successive drives, but Club squelched these forays and turned Tigers over both times.


Attacking off the second turnover, prop Brett Manaia showed a deft touch that belied his considerable size, producing a perfectly weighted chip ahead to the line as he was bundled into touch. This time it was on target for Tapsell, who scored, Hughes’ conversion pushing the lead to 39.


With Tigers absent a few key cogs, coach Sam Hocking stepped into the breach in the final quarter, subbing on in the back row along with reserve scrumhalf Jason Jeyam. The two helped liven up the Tigers attack late, spurring two tries in the last 20 minutes.


Tigers first try was spectacular one and almost worth the wait. Hocking’s addition helped the Tigers get some go forward at the scrum with Jeyam doing well with a break off the back before threading the needle with his pass to No.8 Lawrence Miller who carried into the corner. Tigers recycled quickly and produced sublime torpedo of a kick pass to diminutive winger Sam Down open in the opposite corner. The shifty Down managed to score in the corner, but a tough conversion was missed.


Tigers crossed again in the 77th minute with fullback Zac Hrstac collecting another nice chip ahead to touch down, closing the gap to 39-12.  Unfortunately for Tigers, Club scored from the re-start in the 79th minute after fly half Michael Moloney’s clearance kick ended up in the breadbasket of Colin Slade, whose fall forward try put Club ahead for good, 46-12, after the conversion from Ben Willis.


Coach Jack Wiggins was pleased to have come away with the result on a day when his numbers were tested.


“We talked a lot how we wanted to play this week and we executed our game plan perfectly, as a result we got what we wanted, which was the bonus point and the win.”


“We knew if we stayed in the fight in the scrum in the first half and kicked well we would be in it. They made some mistakes and gave us field position and we were able to punish them. We have a lot of guys to get back to be honest, but it shows the strength in depth we have.”


For Tigers captain Josh Hrstac, who is still recovering from a persistent injury, it was another bitter pill to swallow, but he believes Tigers are coming together.


“We have a few out at the moment, which has really hurt, but there is a lot of positives from the guys that have come through and managed to get a jumper.


“They are getting better with every run and the score line certainly doesn’t reflect the work we are putting in. Mistakes really cost us today, and credit to Club, every sniff we gave them they turned it into five, if not seven, points.


“If we can put 80 minutes together and eliminate those small mistakes, we are as good a side as any. We have shown flashes through our first games, we just need more consistency, which is tough with guys coming in and out of the side. The guys keep grinding hard and it will come. We are building.”


The win for Club leapfrogs them into second place on 14 points, one behind Valley, who collected the surprise bonus point over Scottish. The two sides will meet in next week’s final Premiership round before the international test window opens. Scottish fall to third place on 10 points after their first loss of the campaign, with Kowloon edging ahead of Sandy Bay in fourth on 8 points.  Sandy Bay have five points and Tigers are on two points to finish.