29 Nov 2019

Saxo Markets Premiership action returns to Hong Kong’s rugby pitches this weekend with a battle between second-ranked Societe Generale Valley and third placed Kerry Hotel Kowloon in Saturday’s Game of the Week at Happy Valley at 15.00. Herbert Smith Freehills HKU Sandy Bay meet USRC Borrelli Walsh Tigers at So Kon Po, also at 15.00, while Premiership leaders Natixis HKFC welcome fourth placed Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish at Sports Road at 19.30.


This weekend marks the sixth of ten rounds as the Premiership enters the home stretch. With spots in the Grand Championship limited to the top four league finishers, the heat is on all of the clubs to finish strong.


Kowloon coach Scott Sneddon has labelled it a “crucial week” for his side, and all of the Premiership clubs, in what has been a tight season long race.


“It is a crucial weekend for all of the clubs really. If we beat Valley, we can go into second but if we don’t, and Scottish and Tigers both win, we could find ourselves all the way down in fifth, so you just can’t concede points at this moment,” he said.


Valley are presently second in the standings behind Football Club on 15 points with a 3-2 record, one of those losses coming at the hands of Kowloon in the second week of the season. Sneddon knows it will be tough to replicate the feat on enemy territory.


“It is always hard to play Valley in the Valley and we have been on the wrong end of some tough results there, but hopefully we will continue our good start to the season. If you had given me three from five before the season started, I would have taken it, but now must pick up from where we left off before the test window.


“We have to continue to build on what we have been doing to get us into the position we are in,” Sneddon added.


Kowloon will be looking to string its first successive wins together on Saturday, after beating Tigers before the international window, but face one of the toughest outfits in Hong Kong rugby in a Valley side rounding into form.


Valley will test Kowloon defensively as they boast the season’s top points total of 124, one over leaders Football Club. Kowloon’s offensive output has been more subdued with just 80 points - the lowest total of the leading quartet at the moment.


Kowloon have made do so far with that production, claiming three tight wins by a combined total of 12 points, but Sneddon knows they need more down the stretch.


“We have had three close wins and it shows that we have not given a complete performance yet, that is something we are still working towards and we need something close to it on Saturday.”


Fortunately, Sneddon will have a host of his returning Hong Kong players back for the clash, including new caps prop Thomas Bristow and flanker James Sawyer, fellow forwards James Cunningham, Sam Tsoi, and lynchpin backs Bryn Phillips and Lewis Warner.


“The boys are back from a successful Hong Kong tour, and thankfully no one picked up any injuries. Now, I hope they can bring some of the form that they showed for Hong Kong back to us at club level.”


The muscle up front is particularly valuable for Kowloon with Valley posing a tough contest: “Valley have very good game planning and very good players to execute that planning, they are a strong squad. We will have to contain their big ball carriers and blunt that physical edge.


“Our defensive effort is what has put us in this position and defensively we will need to be as good as we have ever been on Saturday, but now is the time for our offence to step up and generate a bit more opportunities,” Sneddon noted.


HKFC will look to extend its margin at the top of the table against a HK Scottish outfit chasing its first win since 19 October. Scottish hopes will be lifted by the fact that that last victory at least came against Club, giving the leaders their only loss of the Premiership to date, 20-15.


Just two points behind on the table, Sandy Bay will be out to pressure Scottish’s fourth place perch as they look to carry momentum forward from thei

r last round 37-34 win over the Scots, into their clash with sixth placed Tigers.


It should add up to some plenty of fireworks as a cutthroat Premiership race enters the final half of the season.