27 Nov 2020

Christmas will come early for Hong Kong rugby fans when undefeated Natixis HKFC host Societe Generale Valley in Saturday’s Saxo Markets Premiership Game of the Week at 15.30 at Sports Road.

In other Round 4 games, Bloomberg HK Scottish play Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers (15.00) at So Kon Po, while DAC Kowloon play Herbert Smith Freehills HKU Sandy Bay at King’s Park (14.00) to complete a slate that could have dramatic implications on the table.

HKFC rule the roost with 13 points and a 3-0 record that has looked less convincing IRL than on paper in the past two clashes, with Sandy Bay and Kowloon both storming back in uncomfortable final quarters for Club on its home turf. 

Despite a significant string of injuries and its own halting start to the year, Valley sit in striking distance in second with 8 points and a chance to level on Saturday with the right result, while Kowloon and HK Scottish are tied third on 6 points, one in front of Sandy Bay and two ahead of Tigers as the Premiership mid-point approaches. 

Valley’s chief operating officer Grant Beuzeval is satisfied with the start, particularly given the high attrition rate.

We are not upset with where we are, in second and with a chance to claw our way into first if we can get across the line at HKFC, but a loss will also put us right back with the rest of the pack. The league has been pretty wide open,” said Beuzeval.

“This is the big one. We have been targeting this one, but it is a pity that out of 32 first grade players around 15 are injured. We pride ourselves on our depth and that will be tested now. I suppose it is a good opportunity to blood some new players against Club.”

That could prove a crucial point of contrast between the two sides with HKFC boasting depth that would make a spelunker nervous, but Valley is not looking for excuses asserted Beuzeval.

“Every club is dealing with injuries - maybe not to the same extent, but we are determined to not make an excuse out of that. I have always felt that you need a strong Prem A side to be successful in this league, and even more so in a season like this.

‘Traditionally, we have had that depth and a strong Prem A team, but looking around the league I have been impressed with some of the A sides at teams which have struggled to field them in the past. The gap may be closing there now. Who has the top Prem A side could be a really important factor this season come play-off time, in terms of cracking the top four.”

The injury woes are not ideal ahead of what is the biggest match of the season so far, as last season’s one and two meet for the first time since February’s added time cliff-hanger where neither team could muster a try and HKFC claimed the honour behind the boot of fly half Glyn Hughes to win 15-12.

Memories are still fresh for Beuzeval who gave a nod to Club’s 10 as a potential difference maker this weekend.  Hughes, normally the most reliable and prodigious of an enviable group of boots in local rugby, is coming off of an uncharacteristically off target appearance last week missing every pot at goal as club escaped with a 20-19 win over Kowloon.

“It is always special playing Football Club. There is a long rivalry between us and neither team is going to make any excuses out there. It is only the first round of course, so it is not winner take all or anything like that, but you like to have the bragging rights. We couldn’t beat them last year in the league; 0 from 3 if you count the Grand Final. The league matches came down to a try here or there and it was even tighter in the grand final. 

“We know they want to keep that momentum, that psychological advantage over us, but we have a new coach in Mark Fatialofa who is intent on breaking that dominance and I expect it will be very tight again.

“Even Football Club are grinding wins out, and they have probably even been a bit fortunate in the last few weeks against Kowloon and Sandy. I am sure they will be keen to address those issues, but like everyone in the league, they are a long way from peaking at the moment, so it is a good opportunity to have a crack at them.

“It is only a shame that given the Covid restrictions, we can only bring a few supporters to the venue. This is a big game for all of our supporters and we hope that they can enjoy it and get behind us on the live stream,” Beuzeval added.