INTERNATIONAL WINDOW PROVIDES PERFECT PLATFORM FOR FINISH OF SAXO MARKETS PREMIERSHIP CHALLENGE TROPHY

22 Nov 2019

With the men’s fifteen of Hong Kong, China in the middle of a gruelling European tour with a match against Spain tomorrow, and the men’s sevens squad bidding for qualification for the 2020 Olympics in South Korea, Hong Kong’s emerging rugby talent have the local stage to themselves this weekend for the conclusion of the Saxo Markets Premiership Challenge Trophy.

 

After the postponement of the fifth and final round in early October, tomorrow brings this new Hong Kong Rugby Union initiative designed to create space and incentivize clubs to field more of the city’s emerging rugby talent, aged 25 and below to an exciting close.

 

The competition, which served as a build-up to a ten-round Premiership this season, excused Hong Kong’s elite rugby programme athletes from playing to create space for Hong Kong’s next generation players as a means of continuing their seasoning for international competition.

 

With recent U20s programme grads in Max Denmark, Liam Herbert and James Christie in Korea with the sevens squad, and Kyle Sullivan and Finn Field and Paul Altier on national team duty in Europe, the talent in the wings is clear and the Challenge Trophy seeks to further guidepost a pathway for local players to represent Hong Kong.

 

Early results are positive with current U20s captain Sam Tsoi Kin-san on tour in Europe after impressing selectors at his club Kerry Hotel Kowloon during the first half of the Premiership season.

 

With one round remaining, Natixis HKFC and Societe Generale Valley rule the roost - tied first at the top of the table on three wins against one loss for 16 points. Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish, one of three teams with two wins and two losses, are in third after securing two bonus points for a total of 11 points on the Challenge Trophy table.

 

That record puts them within touching distance of claiming the silverware when they face off with HKFC tomorrow at Sports Road at 18.00 in the Saxo Markets Premiership Challenge Trophy game of the week.

 

Valley play fourth ranked Kowloon at Happy Valley at 16.30 in another game with trophy implications, while Sandy Bay tussle with Tigers at Kings Park also at 16.30.

 

Scottish had a strong start in the Premiership Challenge Trophy but have fallen off the pace of late in the Premiership proper, where they are currently tied third with Kowloon, once again behind front-runners HKFC and Valley, whose deadlock on top of the leader board extends to the main competition.

 

Scottish Coach Craig Hammond will be hoping to make up ground on the competition this weekend, after his side dropped two of the last three, with a draw in the other tie.

Scottish’s last win came in mid-October.

Scottish’s last outing two weeks go was a close run affair, a 3-point loss to Sandy Bay, and tomorrow’s game with Football Club promises an even higher degree of difficulty, with Club boasting the league’s most formidable depth.

 

Scottish will be without lock Kyle Sullivan and scrumhalf James Christie, both age eligible for the Challenge Trophy lash but on Hong Kong duty this week.

 

With flanker Josh Dowsing and fly half Gregor McNeish both earning their first caps in Europe against Belgium in a 37-17 win, Scottish will have even fewer player to call upon for the Challenge Trophy clash. Prop Fai Solomona is also with the national team in Europe.

 

Hammond will turn to some of his proven young guns with Mikkel Christensen, a veteran of Hong Kong’s massively successful U20s side that has won six Asian championships and competed at the World Rugby Junior Trophy each year since 2014, gets his first senior start for Scottish at prop.

Former U20 captain Mark Coebergh also comes into the squad for the match with Football Club.

 

The Challenge Trophy also provides Scottish with a chance to welcome back a few key cogs from injury in Hong Kong winger Conor Hartley, and flanker Nathan Tweedy.

 

They will all be tested against an imposing Football Club XV that includes most of its international strike force assembled for this season’s Premiership while also including Peirce Mackinlay-West and Callum McFeat-Smith, two promising young players looking to bridge the gap between Age Grade and senior rugby for Hong Kong. 

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