22 Nov 2021

Kroll USRC Tigers beat IMPACTHK HKU Sandy Bay 20-17, while their women’s Premiership team dispatched SCAA First Pacific Causeway Bay, 60-0.

It was a wide open first half with Sandy Bay starting well in front of a raucous home crowd in its first game at Aberdeen Stadium in three seasons. The hosts kept Tigers pinned in their half early, but the visitors were stout in defence, holding off several attacking waves on their own line. Eventually Sandy Bay claimed first blood after bringing their beefy forward pack into play with a series of scrums on the try-line. On the third opportunity, a powerful Sandy Bay shove created space for the play to be shifted out wide and fly half Jamie King did well on a keeper to slip between the defenders for the opening score; Gair Currie produced a masterful conversion from out wide and Sandy Bay led 7-0 after 20 minutes.

Sandy Bay coach Will Webster has been bemoaning his team’s tendency to follow good with bad this year and he would have pulled his hair out when Tigers replied immediately with their first sustained foray into the Sand Bay half. Tigers coach Lewis Evans will have shared Webster’s frustrations as his team were also let down by lapses in execution in key moments. Without the metronome boot of Josh Henderson, fullback Jacob Myers was filling in today. He missed a sitter from 20 metres but would later produce two penalties to keep Tigers close.

As the game wore on Tigers began to express themselves more fully, and late in the half, the visitors were helped into good position by successive Sandy Bay penalties. Myers poked the ball deep for an attacking lineout, giving his side its best territory of the day to that point. Tigers made sure this time with a driving maul that put the Sandy Bay forward pack on its heels for the score; Myers’ conversion was good and the score was level at 7-7.

In a great riposte, Sandy Bay conjured one of the tries of the season, as they worked the ball through seven pairs of hands over 70 metres. King and fullback Nik Cumming initiated the attack with tap passes back and forth luring the defence before back-rowers Luke van der Smit and Dean Rossouw showed their skills with ball in hand. Van der Smit put in a slip pass behind the defender for Rossouw, whose desperation overhead ball out wide found winger Fourie Smuts for the diving finish. Currie nailed another steep angle conversion to put Sandy Bay up 14-7.

Once again Sandy Bay helped their opposition back into it, conceding a penalty from the restart, which Myers wasted no time in slotting to close the gap to 14-10. The teams were trading shots when Sandy Bay captain Lewis Wilson was shown a straight red card shortly before half time, changing the complexion of the game. Myers converted the penalty to get within one, 14-13, at the break.

It looked as if Sandy Bay might do the impossible in the second half after they generated a penalty from the restart. Cumming missed from halfway but had a second chance minutes later after a jaw-dropping line break from van der Smit. The former South Africa sevens squad member showed he is as fleet of foot as he is hard to tackle with a 30-meter dash to Tigers 22. A scrambling defence conceded the penalty and Cumming poked Sandy Bay ahead 17-13.

After play re-started Tigers played into Sandy Bay hands by kicking deep when ball in hand was the call considering their numerical superiority. The return of Hong Kong captain Liam Slatem, (an ex-Sandy Bay star), to action in his erstwhile home ground paid dividends, with Tigers initiating more direct and adventurous play. They were soon compiling phases and pressure and eventually produced a beautiful team try to take the advantage, as Kyle Kitney crossed untouched for a 20-17 lead after Myers’ conversion.

Sandy Bay threatened late with a lineout five metres from the line. The driving maul is a not so secret weapon for The Bay, but Tigers produced a massive effort to keep the hosts out. A positive impact from bench player Tam Chun-kit, whose line breaks helped keep Sandy Bay on the back foot for the remainder of play, and further tired the defence, who where flagging from the exertion of playing a man down.

Evans was proud and relieved afterwards saying: “Another arm wrestle; I think there will be a lot of those going forward, but I’m so proud of our effort. We were conscious of their driving lineout and scrum and we stepped up to match that and get the win we needed. No bones about it, we were under pressure ahead of kick-off. I didn’t want to make too big a thing of it though, the emphasis was on expressing ourselves and we’ve done that.

“My heart was going; we don’t make it easy on ourselves, 100 per cent, but that was a good result. We’ve been guilty the last few weeks of playing too much one-up rugby, so I will keep challenging the guys to shift it out wide. Today we managed to get a good shape into our game,” added Evans before crediting the impact of the bench on the result.

“Good impact from Kit getting us 30-yards with every run, and Slatem coming back was big. He’s a great player and to miss him and Henderson for four or five games is tough, those are your generals. Purvo, [Sam Purvis], at captain today, on his 101st appearance for Tigers, was immense. He led the boys well and it is great to see guys stepping up across the club. We will be welcoming a few more lads back and that will be a big boost for us before Christmas. I’m more proud of the tries we scored than anything. Those were our first true team tries of the season, I’m overwhelmed by the team’s response and really chuffed for the boys,” said Evans.

In the Dettol Women’s Premiership, Kroll USRC Tigers Ladies emphatically halted a losing streak after welcoming back some absent stars. With pivots Jess Ho and Poon Hoi-yan returning from the sevens squad build-up and Charlotte Myrans back in action, Tigers romped home against winless SCAA First Pacific Causeway Bay, 60-0.  Cheung Hoi-ying collected seven tries, with a hat trick in the first half, and four in the second. The flyer accounted for all of Tigers’ second half scoring as the team implemented coach Fan Shun-kei’s game plan seamlessly, with all scoring coming out wide.