21 Dec 2018

Natixis HKFC beat Kerry Hotel Kowloon 59-5 last night in the final Saxo Capital Markets Premiership match of 2018. 


The result sees HKFC keep its stranglehold on second spot on the table, behind Bloomberg HK Scottish (34 points), with Club’s 6-3 record the second best in the competition, good for 28 points, one point ahead of third-placed Societe Generale Valley and two over fourth-ranked Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers. 


With 10 points separating first from fourth, the final six rounds of the season promise end-to-end excitement with Saxo Premiership action resuming on 12 January starting a sprint to the league championship, before the kick-off of a four-team, single-elimination Grand Championships.


It was the second straight heavy loss for a talented but injury-ravaged Kowloon, who were without 33 players from its 50-man squad last night, while meeting a fourth straight fixture absent four of its five backline starters. 


As a result, Kowloon has had to throw the net wide in drafting in more and more players from the lower divisions, and even the occasional name from seasons long past, in a brave effort to meet their fixtures.


Results went largely as expected, as Kowloon ran into the buzz saw of an HKFC outfit growing in confidence and capabilities late in the year.  The hosts, intent on keeping their spot on the upper end of the ladder, posting a commanding 26-5 lead by half-time, securing the bonus point, after tries from a trio of Hong Kong sevens squad members in Liam Herbert, Jamie Hood and Raef Morrison, who scored a consecutive brace within five minutes.


Kowloon replied on one of their few forays into Club’s red zone with James Sawyer plunging over the line – a modicum of reward for the mobile No.8, who alongside club captain Phil Whitfield has put his body on the line for Kowloon in the back row this season.


Kowloon were held out of the Football Club half for most of the match, with some unforced errors making matters worse, and once again highlighting their lack of numbers.  


Centre Lewis Warner struggled with the kicking duties in the absence of regular fly-halves Jack Neville and Jack Hughes, while hooker Charlie Piper, one of Kowloon’s impressive off-season finds, was forced into the centres after several Kowloon players were sent to the bench with knocks by half-time.


Warner who performed admirably under significant pressure with ball in hand was off from the tee and in his kicking from hand, as Kowloon repeatedly returned possession to a dangerous Football Club backline, who were quick to queue up for tries and made the visitors pay for every indiscretion.


The second half saw more of the same with Jevon Groves and Niall Rowark both scoring tries in the opening minutes to warp the score line further.

Winger Glyn Hughes scored to start the final quarter, followed by a second for Rowark, and a last try for Russell Webb shortly before full-time, bringing the final total to 59-5.


HKFC coach Jack Wiggins, in a successful first season at Sports Road, was pleased with his side’s performance in what are always tricky mid-field ties.


“It was a good way to finish the year. It could have been a banana skin game for us, but we stuck with it in the first half and executed what we have been training on all week. We knew they might struggle, based on their numbers at the moment, and we had to get those five points before Christmas.


“They put up a good fight, but we weathered that storm and we know we can finish, so we’re really happy. It shows that if we get a sniff of the ball to play with, we have dangerous backs and are a great attacking side.


“We’re six from nine and would have taken that certainly at the beginning of the season. The real challenge now is after Christmas. We’ve done well so far, but the work starts now really,” Wiggins added.


Scott Sneddon, also in his first season as head coach of Kowloon, shared that sentiment and is expecting a change of fortunes in 2019.


“We battled hard for 80 minutes, had a couple of boys pick up knocks and saw some decisions go against us, but I can’t fault the boys’ effort tonight.


“We’re just depleted at the moment and I think the last two games have been a step too far in straining the squad.


“It's not going to change overnight, but things will get better in January, when we should have ten players back.


“We are a good squad, but we don't have strength in depth at the moment and that's the reality of it. We have a big six games in the new year before play-offs. We know it's a tough ask, but it is six times where we can go out and put in a shift and see where we end up,” Sneddon added.