07 Dec 2018

Herbert Smith Freehills Sandy Bay HKU host Natixis HKFC in tomorrow’s Saxo Capital Markets Premiership Game of the Week at 15.00 at Aberdeen. 


It will be the first ever home match for Sandy Bay, Hong Kong rugby’s newest Premiership side, after the damage from Typhoon Mangkhut prior to the season start damaged forced a lengthy renovation in Aberdeen.


In other Premiership action, Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish will put the Broonie Quaich on the line against Societe Generale Valley at Shek Kip Mei (15.00), while Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers face off with Kerry Hotel Kowloon in the battle of the King’s Park home clubs at the same time.


The weekend slate triggers a frenzy of Premiership action in the countdown to Christmas, with two further rounds to be played in the weeks of the 15th and 20th December, including mid-week matches, before the league break.


With much rugby yet to come, including six full rounds in 2019, all clubs are in range of securing one of the top four spots on the table by league end to qualify for the four-team Grand Championships.


After two heavy losses to open the season, Sandy Bay are starting their climb up the table after having crossed the Rubicon on a series of close-run affairs to claim their first win, 16-13 over Kowloon, prior to November’s repechage.


In the six Premiership matches Sandy Bay has played, the last four on the trot have been settled within a margin of a converted try (7 points), with Sandy Bay emerging victorious in only one, a statistical variance that despite the small sample size seems to beg regression.


Sandy Bay carried the momentum from their first league win into the Kerry Hotel Cup played during the repechage, with characteristically narrow escapes over Football Club (19-12) and Valley (28-26) helping them reach the final where they lost to Kowloon - 20-26.


Sandy Bay coach Brett Wilkinson is confident that the momentum established over the repechage break can help his side close the gap on the league table.


“It’s all on track for us to play at home at the moment,” said Wilkinson who acknowledges that overnight rains may delay his side’s home opener even further.


“It would be our first home game ever as Sandy Bay so it is exciting.


“The Kerry Cup was good for us as a club, in terms of building our confidence and momentum. It was also a very good exercise in that it gave us a chance to look at some guys that hadn’t yet had much Premiership game time.”


That newfound depth is already being put to good use with Sandy Bay centre captain Gair Currie out with an injury against Football Club.


“Gair rolled his ankle last weekend and will be out tomorrow, but the Kerry Cup allowed us to build a bit more depth and we have guys now with a chance to step up, which is good for them and for us. It’s another opportunity for us to get them some game time this weekend.”


Wilkinson has a mixed reaction to his side’s string of close matches saying, “It’s positive, of course, that we’re coming so close, but it’s also hugely frustrating to not get those games over the line.


“It all comes down to our concentration and our execution - and taking opportunities when we create them, which has at times cost us wins. As a group we’re working really hard to capitalize on those chances, because that’s what it all comes down to.”


Wilkinson knows that those chances will be fewer and harder to come by as the league approaches the business end of the season, starting with tomorrow’s clash against HKFC.


“Football Club are a very good team; they aren’t at the top end of the league for nothing certainly. They’re physical and once they establish momentum they look to play wide and get behind you.


“We need to match them physically and stop that momentum. They have a good set piece and a good counter-attack so there are a lot of things we are going to need to put right to have a chance of winning.


“But we are as ready as we can be for the next few weeks. You can’t predict injury, but we have built some depth over the last month or two and we just need to go into every game with our best team possible and to be accurate in our execution.


“If we can do what we say we need to do, we shouldn’t be far off and I’m absolutely convinced we can get into the top four. That is the goal for every team, to be in it at the business end of the season.


“We have to go back to our processes and be more accurate in what we do and we can be there or thereabouts.


“We can’t afford to leave it too late; we really need to start picking up wins in the next couple of games to put us in with a chance. These next few rounds are very important for us now and we want to put our best foot forward,” Wilkinson added.


A win over HKFC would certainly be another step in the right direction for Wilkinson’s men.