Societe Generale Valley and Kowloon will meet in the Rugbypass.com Men’s Premiership grand championship final after they posted contrasting wins in today’s semi-finals.
Valley saw off a gallant Natixis HKFC to win 27-14, while Kowloon were forced to come from behind to defeat Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers 21-15.
It was a late try from Jack Neville that saw Kowloon home after they trailed by a point in the dying stages, with coach James Scaysbrook feeling the result was just reward for his side. Kowloon will make their first appearance in a grand final since their Premiership league winning campaign in the 2011/12 season.
“It’s great for the club to be in the final and I’m pleased for our lads,” Scaysbrook said.
“They’ve put in a lot of hard work this season. They’ve been building really well throughout the year and training very hard. But getting there isn’t all we want so we’ll be focussed on our week leading in.”
The match started quickly, with Kowloon looking the more likely early as Tigers struggled to settle. They opened up a 14-3 lead thanks to tries to Jamie Tsang and Ben Madgwick and two Jack Neville conversions, before Tigers worked back into the game and created scoring opportunities themselves.
After earlier opening the scoring for his side, fly half Robbie Keith booted his second penalty to drag the margin back to eight points with 10 minutes remaining in the opening half. The start of the second half was an out and out slog, with a Keith penalty the only score in the opening 20 minutes.
Neville had a chance to add three of his own but mistimed the kick, leaving the margin at five points as the time ticked by.
Keith, however, kept taking the chances Kowloon were giving by conceding penalties, nailing another three points with 15 minutes remaining to narrow the gap to two points. The Tigers fly half looked the hero shortly after when he nailed a perfectly executed drop goal to give his side a one-point lead with less than 10 minutes to go.
Tigers kept control through smart kicking and a powerful line-out drive that got them within a few metres of the line. However that foray from the forwards finished with a penalty to Kowloon, who took the ball the length of the field to score a try, with Neville finishing off after receiving the ball in his own half.
“Winning like that is going to help with the morale, late wins are always great and every one feels good after them,” Scaysbrook said.
“It’s not the first time we’ve come back and won at the death this year and it was unbelievable with the lads stepping up at the end there, they really dug in well.
“But I think we’ll be more looking at what happened during the game rather than what happened in the last few minutes.”
At Happy Valley, the home side took the ascendancy early, skipping out to a 10-0 lead after 20 minutes thanks to a try to Ruan Duplooy and a conversion and a penalty to Ben Rimene.
HKFC reeled in the deficit thanks to back-to-back penalties from the boot of Nate de Thierry and some strong work by Jevon Groves and Josh Afu.
“At half-time we were on the wrong side of the ref and fair enough really, as we weren’t rolling away and were giving away penalties at the breakdown,” Valley coach Andrew Kelly said.
“When we cleared that up, we managed to stem the flow and I think that was the difference.”
The second half started with the score at 10-6 and again De Thierry benefitted from the good work of his teammates, kicking truly from close range to bring the margin back to a point. The undermanned and unfancied Football Club kept coming, heaping the pressure on Valley and forcing mistakes.
However it was Valley who managed the next score, stringing together multiple phases close to the Football Club line and eventually earning a penalty, which Rimene slotted to make it 13-9.
The momentum was back in Valley’s favour soon after when Matt Rosslee found the line, with the likes of Ally Maclay and Martin Muller leading the way for the hosts.
Rosslee’s try, converted by Rimene, pushed the margin to 11 points inside the final 20 minutes but the visitors refused to lie down, hitting back through a try to winger Charlie Higson-Smith.
Max Page missed his opportunity to bring the margin to within a try with a little over 10 minutes left, but it mattered little when Duplooy dotted down for the second time to put the result beyond doubt. Rimene again added the extras to make it 27-14, ensuring a victory that left Kelly happy but realistic.
“We are absolutely delighted to go through and that’s the positive out of it. We’ve had a good season, there have been some lows but generally we’ve worked hard as a group,” he said.
“I’d like to tidy up our tackle area a wee bit, our mauling play was awful and our line-outs are awful, so we’ll have to look at that,” added Kelly.