05 Dec 2015

Societe Generale Valley’s Men’s and Women’s Premiership sides maintained their perfect records in tonight’s Hong Kong Rugby Union domestic league action. Valley’s Men’s Premiership team extended its winning streak to nine matches and captured the Broony Quaich after beating Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish 30-15 in Shek Kip Mei, while the women’s XV extended their winning streak to 21 games (dating back to the beginning of last season) after beating CPM Gai Wu Falcons 15-3 in Happy Valley.

In the second Men’s Premiership game tonight, USRC Borrelli Walsh Tigers leap-frogged Natixis Hong Kong Football Club on the table after a 24-18 win at King’s Park. The match between Leighton Asia Hong Kong Cricket Club and Sabre Kowloon at Aberdeen was postponed due to the rain.

It was a brave effort to defend their home turf from Scottish, whose struggles with injury continue to worsen as the season progresses, necessitating a call-up for several Premiership A players and even coach Craig Hammond tonight against the league leaders.

Despite fielding an inexperienced squad, Scottish took an early lead after an opening penalty from scrumhalf Charles Cheung Ho Ning. Minutes later, Scottish extended its lead to 8-0 when flanker Alessandro Nardoni touched down as the pack muscled over from in close.

Valley’s first points came shortly thereafter however, with a textbook backline move started by a long skip pass from centre Ally Maclay finding winger Eric Moloney. Moloney timed his run from the opposite wing perfectly and drew in the last of the defence before a simple offload found strong-side winger Ryan Meachem streaking down the far touchline.

Shortly after, Valley leveled the scores 8-all with a penalty from fly-half Nicholas Holton. Scottish centre Lex Kaleca was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on the re-start, and Valley looked poise to blow the game open. But Scottish held its own while a man down, even threatening to score but Cheung’s penalty attempt was wide. After a furious ten minutes, Kaleca returned to the field with the score still 8-all. While Kaleca’s return was welcome news for the hosts, it was preceded by another injury, with prop Jamie Pincott being replaced by John Aikman.

But Scottish’s defensive effort started to take a toll while Valley continued to press home their advantage. Max Woodward, who had come on in reserve for Moloney, scored Valley’s second try, coming off his wing on the inside shoulder of Maclay whose pop pass proved perfect for Hong Kong’s sevens captain. Woodward showed some quick feet close to the Scottish line, evading the first-up tackles before bulling over for the try. Holston’s conversion was successful and Valley took its first lead 15-8.

Moments later, a poor clearance kick from Scottish wing Austin Robertshaw found Valley fullback Ed Rolston in mid-field. Rolston’s counter put Meachem into space and the winger showed a clean pair of heels for the last forty metres to collect a first half brace. Holston added the extras and a penalty late in the half to send Valley into the break up 25-8.

With the Scottish bench already nearly depleted, a blowout looked on the cards, but Scottish dug deep in the second half. The challenge intensified when Scottish lost its second player to the sin bin as Aikman was flagged for repeated infringement when the Scottish scrum collapsed twice under Valley pressure on its own five metres shortly after the resumption of play.

Scottish played enough rugby in Valley’s half to maintain the clean sheet through the second sin-bin. Their gritty effort was rewarded shortly after Aikman’s return when the pack peeled the ball off an attacking lineout and marched 15 metres before flanker Alessandro Nardoni crashed over for his second try. The conversion from Mark Coebergh reduced the deficit to 25-15 with 10 minutes left.

Stung by the Scottish resistance, Valley renewed its offensive effort late in the match. Their depth from the bench, the deepest in Hong Kong, was again instrumental as reserve Andrew Bridle crossed over in the 39th minute. It was a great solo effort for Bridle, who spotted the seam in the Scottish defence from 30 metres out and backed himself, bouncing off a few defenders before crashing down to give his side a bonus point win with time expiring.

Valley extended its perfect record to eight wins but for coach Jack Isaac it was a far from a perfect performance:

“It’s the same old scenario. We start well, playing decent, attractive rugby and then we fall into a hole in the second half. We made some poor errors in the second half. We didn’t control our game. We should have kicked to the corner more and taken our opportunities with our set-piece. I can’t fault the effort. We had the brawn, but we didn’t have the brains.”

Tonight’s injuries will leave Scottish with another huge hill to climb on Friday against Kowloon before they can recuperate over the Christmas break.

“We’re a small club and we’re only four years old so we don’t have a lot of depth. We had to call a few players up and to have our Premiership A guys playing against top of the table Valley is never easy, but they did well. Everyone worked really hard tonight.

“We had a goal to not lose at home this season and to keep the Broony so it’s a bit of a frustrating loss, but I’m proud of the boys, particularly in the second half to make the game close was a huge effort. Down 25-8 at halftime, it could have gone a bit tipsy, but we dug deep. Next week against Kowloon will be big. We need a win. If we can stay mid-table and have a good win after Christmas, we’ll be in with a shout,” added Hammond.

Tigers nipped Football Club into second place on the table after their 24-18 victory at home. With three tries and a penalty, Tigers result wasn’t good enough for the bonus point, but it did give them sole possession of second place on 20 points, two ahead of Football Club, but 15 behind Valley.

Scottish’s fifth loss of the season leaves them on 16 points with Cricket Club and Kowloon on 12 and 6 points with a game in hand.

In the Women’s Premiership, Societe Generale Valley Black Ladies extended its perfect run to 21 wins (including all of last season and six rounds of this season), beating CPM Gai Wu Falcons 15-3 on the first meeting between the two league leaders this season.

Valley led 12-0 at the half with Olivia Coady collecting a brace in the first half before Falcons clawed back a solitary penalty in the second half, accompanied by one penalty from Valley after the break.

For the first time ever, both teams entered the crucial clash undefeated after five rounds but Valley proved the dominant side once again and will now take a momentum-building victory into the holiday break. Valley’s win gives them 28 points on the Women’s table, five in front of Gai Wu.