19 Nov 2021

The Dettol Hong Kong Rugby Premierships make a rare visit to Southern District on Saturday as IMPACTHK HKU Sandy Bay welcome Kroll USRC Tigers to the Aberdeen Stadium in the men’s match at 15.00.  SCAA First Pacific Causeway Bay face Kroll USRC Tigers in the Dettol Women’s Premiership match at the same ground at 18.00, in what is the first premiership rugby action held at Aberdeen since super typhoon Mangkhut.

Both men’s teams are hunting for a win to emerge from a three-way race in the bottom half of the table. Bonus points have been the difference with both sides sharing a 2-5 record, along with KPMG Hong Kong Scottish. Scottish are in fourth on 13 points, Sandy Bay in fifth with 12, and Tigers in sixth on 11. 

Sandy Bay closed the gap on Scottish with a one-point win last week, and now have a chance to create space between themselves and a Tigers club dealing with an unfortunate streak of injuries, but coach Will Webster knows it won’t be an easy task.

“We aren’t celebrating after last week. We need to clean up our performance. We do well at times and then right away we aren’t good; we score but don’t follow up on those opportunities when we can, and are letting teams back into it.

“There isn’t a lot between teams on the table or on the pitch. This is a league where anyone can beat anyone at any time. We have five games before Christmas and we want to improve game by game. If we do that, results will follow.”

It has been a tough month for Tigers absent shot-callers in fly-half Josh Henderson and scrumhalf and Hong Kong captain Liam Slatem, and a few Hong Kong forwards through injury or suspension. That has them battling to halt a five-game slide, and juggling selection week by week with players stepping up in uncustomary positions.   

“They are in a similar position to us,” said Webster, “I can tell you from experience that any team on the bottom of the table is desperate to get off of it; we know because we were there last week. Tigers will come in all guns blazing.” 

Sandy Bay are largely healthy and welcome Hong Kong lock Mark Prior back to action on Saturday - adding to their considerable bulk in the forwards where Webster expects a good battle from Tigers.

“Mark is hugely influential for us. When he’s on the pitch his presence is noticed and it will be important to have him for Tigers. They have a strong set piece and a very, very experienced front five, which is great for us. It’s something we take pride in and our players will relish that battle. Out back I know they have a few Hong Kong sevens players in Eric Kwok and Mak Kwai-chung who are dangerous and can score from anywhere.”

It promises to be another tight Dettol Premiership battle and Webster is excited that Saturday is a club day for ‘The Bay.

“We haven’t played at Aberdeen since before super typhoon Mangkhut. We were slated to play there earlier this season, but then typhoon Lionrock washed that game out! The boys have been saying that the last time we were at home, we got off to a mini run that led to our grand championship that season. We aren't in the mayday situation that team was, going worst to first, but it will be great to build off of last week. Mostly, we’re looking forward to having all of our teams in one place for a real club day.”

Kroll USRC Tigers ladies have also been hampered by availability issues ahead of Saturday’s Dettol Women’s Premiership showcase, although thankfully not through injury.

Tigers are victims of their own success, given their successful development of local stars for Hong Kong has them down five players who are playing with the sevens team in Dubai. They have been without more if you count those involved in the training squad for the last month.

That period coincided with a three-match losing streak, but the return of leaders like Jessica Ho and Vivian Poon will help right the ship.  A close run affair with undefeated league leaders Societe Generale Valley last weekend, a 16-3 loss, shows that Tigers are gathering strength for a turnaround in round three.

They will no doubt have this game circled as a critical opportunity to halt that skid against winless SCAA First Pacific Causeway Bay. Although improving round by round Causeway Bay could struggle to contain a cornered Tigers team looking to climb back into contention.