TIGERS’ MEN VANQUISH VALLEY; WOMEN LOSE A SQUEAKER IN DETTOL PREMIERSHIPS

04 Oct 2021


Kroll USRC Tigers outlasted Societe Generale Valley, 29-20, in the Dettol Men’s Premiership game of the week today at King’s Park, while the Dettol Women’s Premiership between the top two teams in the game came down to a single point as Valley won, 15-14.

The Women’s match was the thriller everyone expected from the number one and two teams on the table, with end-to-end action befitting a game featuring Hong Kong internationals and those from all over the world on both sides. In front of their passionate home support, Tigers clawed back a 10-0 deficit in the first quarter after Valley’s Andrea Leung Wing-yan started the scoring with a try that was bookended by a penalty and conversion from Zoe Smith.

A pair of Tigers’ Hong Kong sevens stars closed the gap with new sevens squad member Hui Man-ling crossing the whitewash for the home side in the last 10 minutes of the half, followed by a  quick strike from Au yeung, Sin-yi. Charlotte Myrans provided both conversions to close the gap to 14-10 at the break.

Valley wrested momentum back with a strong second half, mixing steadily applied pressure and solid tactical play as they looked to play in the Tigers half. Tse Wing-ku provided the difference maker after 45 minutes with her try coming from an on-target cross-pitch kick-pass from Wong Yi-tung that gave Tigers headaches in defence, allowing Tse to pounce on a dropped ball behind the try-line.

That score gave Valley a one-point margin, which they clung to down a desperate final 30 minutes with Tigers threatening with numerous line breaks that were eventually squelched by Valley. All in all it was a fitting encounter between these two titans, and a tantalizing prospect for rounds two and three

Valley coach Bella Milo was relieved to escape with the win, saying, “We knew it would be tough, they can score from anywhere so we had to keep it tight, apply pressure and play rugby in the right places. We just had to hold on to the ball in the second half. We lost shape at the end from fatigue, the last ten minutes we were asking the ref ‘how long, how long’. It’s awesome to close out a game like that, it was the third game in row we had to gut out and credit to the team, especially the bench, that we pulled it out. It wasn’t pretty but we’ll take it.”

For Tigers coach Fan Shun-kei the first of three games this Premiership between these two is telling: “It was a good loss for us if there is such a thing. We played about 10 minutes of good rugby, and gave them too many opportunities. We were close, but we need to work on our mental game and our finishing. There were a lot of decision-making errors, so the girls have to study and improve their game sense. It’s a good loss for us because we had the upper hand, but losing will help us build another level. The girls know why they lost which is key,” he added.

In other results, HKFC beat Kowloon, 25-10, while Gai Wu Falcons blanked SCAA Causeway Bay 61-0.

 

 

There was nothing to separate the two men’s teams today either, with the game of the week a one-point battle entering the final quarter. The score at half time was 15-13 to Valley after a stop-start opening 40 was marred by penalties and a lengthy injury to Hong Kong prop Jack Parfitt. Prior to that delay, Tigers had had the upper hand, employing the more direct line running and generating plenty of turnover ball.

Tigers took their opportunities best, especially from the tee, with Josh Henderson slotting three from four kicks in the first half, (five of six on the day), while Valley’s Mitchell Purvis and Tom Smith, on his club debut at fly-half, combined for just one of four in the first half and little more thereafter. Hooker Matt Keay opened the scoring for Tigers with a try on ten minutes, followed by Henderson’s conversion and a penalty later in the quarter as the hosts went up 13-nil. It took a piece of individual flair from fullback Whiria Meltzer to break down the Tigers defence, as he turned a subtle stutter step into space out wide to score in the 24th minute. Smith missed the conversion, but Valley had closed the gap to 8.

Near half time, Parfitt went down in a scrum on a day when Valley tortured the Tigers pack at the set piece. The Tigers’ scrum fortunes worsened when play resumed, as they were put to the rack beneath their posts with five re-set scrums in 10 minutes. Two Tigers props were sent to the bin before the referee awarded Valley a penalty try for repeated infringements, handing them the 15-13 lead.

With Valley enjoying a two-man advantage and the Tigers bench shrinking rapidly, the game opened up in the second half. Despite Valley amassing significant metres from chunk plays, the Tigers held strong in front of the ball, working off the sin bins with a rear guard defence that was as composed as it was committed. Valley helped Tigers stay in it with miscues down the stretch that repeatedly relieved pressure.

On the hour, Valley ten Tom Smith found a clever line for a chip kick that gave Valley good field position on the Tigers 22-metre line. Nyasha Tarusenga spoiled Tigers’ ball with hooker Luke Dewar driving the attack to the line before reserve forward Dom Heggelin crashed over to push Valley out, 20-13. The conversion was missed and a restart miscue handed Tigers possession at halfway; Valley’s errors compounded to give Henderson two pots at goal late, which he slotted - closing the gap to 20-19.

Henderson shone again with a beautiful intercept of an outlet pass from the Valley lineout. He carried for 50 metres before offloading to omnipresent captain Lawrence Miller whose finish gave Tigers their first lead of the half, 26-20, after the conversion. Henderson added a late penalty to bring the final to 29-20

New Tigers Director of Rugby Lewis Evans was delighted with the way his side gutted it out: “I’m pleased and proud, the boys showed outstanding resilience. It wasn’t pretty and there were a lot of errors, but the boys stuck to type and plan and we came through in the end. We had five Prem A guys on the bench and for them to come on in a moment like that is a testament to the entire squad,” said Evans.

It was the opposite end of the spectrum for Valley coach Mark Fatialofa: “Disappointed; we need to look at ourselves on this one. We were handed numerous advantages and never took them, we kept throwing away opportunities.

 

 

Well played to Tigers, they stuck in the fight. In the second half, we wanted to play phases and take their legs away, but they did it to us instead. So many pieces of the puzzle went missing today, and those little mistakes build. If we can’t capitalize on situations like that, we will keep falling away like this.”

In other men’s premiership matches, top-ranked DAC Kowloon upset Natixis HKFC in a top of the table clash at Sports Road, 26-17, while IMPACTHK HKU Sandy Bay held off KPMG HK Scottish, 20-19. Kowloon and Tigers leapfrog Football Club on the table with Kowloon in first on 12 points, Tigers on 10 and Club in third on 9, with Sandy Bay, Valley and Scottish making up the bottom three.

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