10 Nov 2019

Herbert Smith Freehills HKU Sandy Bay spoiled Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish’s club day when Liam Slatem scored an 80th minute try to sneak a 37-34 away win. Sandy Bay created opportunities with pressure throughout, and but for some missed attempts from the tee, would have had the opening half advantage, instead they trailed 20-11 at the break.


HK Scottish coach Craig Hammond had called for his side to score more tries ahead of the game and his team responded with a first half brace, but he had to settle for a penalty to start with fly half Gregor McNeish giving his side a 3-0 lead after the first minute.


With metronomic kicker Jack Metters sidelined, Sandy Bay missed its first chance to reply minutes later with winger Simon Bienvenu errant on an early sitter.


Scottish enjoyed the balance of attack early on, producing tries for big men Josh Dowsing and Rory Drummond in the first quarter. Dowsing’s tally pushed the lead to 10-0, before Sandy Bay’s first reply came from the boot of captain Gair Currie, whose penalty on the 15-minute marker put the Bay on the board, 10-3.


Drummond produced a whirling dervish of a try to crash against the post pads fifteen minutes later - with McNeish’s conversion extending the lead to 17-3, but Scottish let Sandy Bay back into things almost immediately after, conceding a penalty for not releasing in the tackle, which Currie slotted to close the gap to 17-6.


With momentum shifting back its way, Sandy Bay upped its defensive pressure and forced a third chance for Currie from 28-metres, which he missed. Scottish’s attempt to clear their lines from the re-start petered out around halfway returning the advantage to Sandy Bay. They mustered a good sustained assault through over a dozen phases that put the hosts backs to their try-line. Bienvenu made amends for his missed penalty earlier, with a well-taken try in the corner in the 35th minute. Currie couldn’t nail the conversion, leaving Sandy Bay trailing 17-11.


That score looked as if it would survive the half, but a scrum penalty for Scottish at halfway set up another attacking opportunity after McNeish kicked to the corner. A well-executed lineout produced ball for centre Mike Green, who promptly slipped a tackle in midfield to convert a half into a full break, before finding Sean Taylor in support outside for the score. McNeish’s conversion pushed the lead to a seemingly comfortable 24-11 at half.


Sandy Bay’s 11 missed points from the tee would have made a difference in the opening half, but the visitors simply decided to take matters into their own hands in the second, as they outscored Scottish 26-10 down the homestretch.


Fly half George Humphreys started the run after nine minutes when he intercepted a short pass off a ruck to Jack Parfitt to run 30 metres in the opposite direction for the score. The conversion from fullback Iwan Phillips closed the gap to 24-18 with 30 minutes left as Sandy Bay scented the lead.


The game was played between the 22’s for most of the next quarter as both sides stalemated each other. Sandy Bay produced a second jailbreak try off of a midfield turnover with the deceptively mobile No.8 Luke van der Smit starting and finishing the move twenty metres later with a swan dive in the corner. Philips struck the tough conversion from the touchline to give Sandy Bay its first lead, 24-25, inside the final quarter.


Scottish produced a number of chances at the other end, but the final pass repeatedly failed to find its target, while Sandy Bay’s belief grew with each foiled attack. The visitors soon had a familiar attacking platform with a lineout 20-meters from the Scottish line. The ensuing driving maul ravaged the Scottish defence and deposited Callum Tam over the line for the try; Humphreys missed the conversion but Sandy Bay grew its lead to 24-30.


A penalty off the kick-off then gave McNeish a chance to poke the ball to Sandy Bay’s five-metre line and Scottish scored off a quick throw to the front of the lineout, with the pass back to hooker Harry Baron putting him over the line without dramas. McNeish converted to reclaim the lead 31-30.


The bagpipes were reeling as the Scottish fans exhorted their side to victory and they responded with a heroic charge that produced another penalty for McNeish, whose effort was true pushing the lead to 34-30 with four minutes left.


McNeish had a chance to push the margin even further shortly after when Damian Bailey was sin-binned for infringement, but his shot drifted left of the posts.


In the 79th minute another Sandy Bay defensive effort created offensive opportunity as Scottish spilled the ball into the hands of Cole Mosychuk who collected well to trigger the counter-attack. Lock Mark Prior put in an influential carry for Sandy Bay, as he nimbly skipped out of an ankle tackle to complete the break before off-loading to scrumhalf Liam Slatem who scampered across for the game-winner for an under-manned Sandy Bay, 34-35, to silence the crowd as time expired. Humphreys' conversion brought the final score to 37-34.


“I’m really proud of the guts that we showed to come back and steal it late,” said Sandy Bay coach Brett Wilkinson after the game.


“We played some really good rugby, but we still let ourselves down with mental mistakes and silly penalties. But it is a big step forward and we can build on that. We are always looking to build and when we stick to what we do and back ourselves, we are pretty efficient.


“That was a huge win for us in terms of the table, and in terms of our self confidence and for going forward. To go that much down we could have easily rolled over, but we stayed in the fight, kept to task and clawed our way back and when the momentum shifted, we looked dangerous,” he added.


Natixis HKFC outlasted Societe Generale Valley in an arm-wrestle between the two top ranked teams, with fly half Glyn Hughes and Valley boots Matt Rosslee and Paddy McDuell contributing five penalties as Club led 9-6 through 75 minutes. Flanker Sam Pym’s try at the death provided the final margin with Hughes adding the conversion to run out 16-6 winners.  Kerry Hotel Kowloon produced their second win on the trot after beating Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers in a clash of Kings Park clubs, 23-18.


Today’s results see Natixis HKFC reclaim first place (4-1) on 18 points, followed by Valley (3-2) on 15, while Kowloon climb into tied-third for the first time this season with Scottish, both on 12 points. Sandy Bay improves to 2-3 and 10 points good for fifth place, ahead of Tigers on three points.