06 Oct 2017

The opening rounds of the Old Mutual International Men’s Premiership games have mostly been decided by single-digit margins.

Round three is the last before the first week off of the season and sees Natixis HKFC step out as the only remaining undefeated side as they travel to King’s Park to take on the Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers.

Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC host Societe Generale Valley at Aberdeen and Bloomberg HK Scottish and Kowloon lock horns at Shek Kip Mei, with all matches kicking off at 4.30pm on Saturday.

HKFC will fancy their chances of heading into the break at 3-0 against a Tigers side that has shown promise but is yet to fully click.

“Like everyone, we break the year down into blocks and little mini-goals and, as opposed to the past two seasons, we are looking to get off to a good start and continue that,” HKFC coach Phil Bailey said about the prospect of his side reaching the break undefeated.

Bailey is likely to be without centre Ben Axten-Burrett, who suffered a broken hand against Scottish last weekend, in a clash in which he hopes his charges will finally get their ball handling right.

“We are not looking too much at what Tigers are doing, it’s all about us,” Bailey said. “We made 20 handling errors on the weekend so that is where the game will be won and lost when it comes to us.

“We left 20 points on the field in the first half [against Scottish] with poor execution but we managed to still get it in the end, we made the job a lot harder than it needed to be.”

Cricket Club are the only side yet to post a win and desperately need to open their account against Valley to avoid slipping off the pace like they did early last season. Coach Brett Wilkinson has now had two matches to get to know his new squad and has also been doing his homework on Valley.

“I’m slowly finding my feet and it’s all going well, I’m loving it,” he said.

“Their reputation alone and cleaning up last season with all the titles, it’s a big challenge for us. We’ve had a look at the video and it’s something we look forward to.”

Up front is one area HKCC have shown promise this season, however Wilkinson wants to see his side eradicate the simple errors that are proving so costly.

“Valley have a very strong pack so I think it’s going to be a fascinating tussle and it will be a good test to see where we are at,” Wilkinson said. “The little things have been costing us, just basic mistakes, and we have been working hard to fix that.

“I’m pretty positive that once we sort that out we will be coming out on the right side of those results.”

Wilkinson highlighted a host of in-form players that he will need firing this weekend, including prop Dylan Rogers, back-rowers Matt Arvier and Matt Lamming and backs Jack Metters, Gair Currie and Luke van der Smit.

Valley coach Andrew Kelly feels his side are in a similar boat the Cricketers, needing to iron out a few early-season glitches.

“A few breakdowns in our systems in defence and attack and silly mistakes and errors are costing us,” he said.

While admitting the trip to Aberdeen is never easy, Kelly joked that the new MTR line may take the edge off the journey. “We’ve actually not used it yet so we might give it a test run,” he said.

“They probably could have won their last two games, so we’re expecting a battle.”

One confirmed non-appearance for Valley is star fly half Matt Rosslee, who will sit out after getting a red card against Kowloon.

The clash between Scottish and Kowloon, both of whom were at times the competition’s form side last season, will be a belter, with each side boasting a 1-1 record.

Both sides have started the season in patchy form and Scottish will be keen to prove a point on their home deck at “The Rock” after losing there last weekend.

The winner will enter the break sitting pretty, while the loser will find themselves with a negative record and with work to do in the lead-up to Christmas.