19 Jan 2019

Societe Generale Valley handed Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish its first loss since October in Saxo Capital Markets Premiership Super Saturday action today at Hong Kong Football Club.  


Natixis HKFC beat Herbert Smith Freehills HKU Sandy Bay 54-24, while Kerry Hotel Kowloon upset Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers, 29-25, in today’s other matches.


In one of the most evenly contested matches of the competition so far, Valley emerged with its first win of the campaign over Scottish after disrupting the league-leaders’ possession attack behind a strong team performance with scrumhalf Ruan Duploy and fly-half Ben Rimene marshaling the pack well to win a nail-biter, 19-13.


Valley coach Andrew Kelly didn’t attach much importance to the result other than saying that it represents a welcome step forward from their last outing, a loss to HKFC, to start 2019.


“They had a few guys down with injury and away with the sevens, so we knew this was a good opportunity to get at them, but full credit to Scottish as it was really close. They didn’t take their opportunity at the end, while we ground it out, and I guess that’s about it.


“There is confidence to take from that definitely, but our execution is still not great and our contact is not great all the time either, but it was definitely a step in the right direction from our game against Football Club.”


Scottish had the better start, scoring its try after five minutes when fullback Sean Taylor managed to bob and weave through traffic along the far touchline before dotting down.  Flyhalf Gregor McNeish was accurate off the tee, notching the conversion for a 7-0 lead and adding a penalty late in the half to send his team into the sheds up 10-9 at the break.


Valley’s first half scoring came exclusively through Rimene, who was a perfect three for three on his kicks for post in the first half, and would finish with 14 of his side’s 19 points.  Scottish coach Craig Hammond lamented his side’s lack of accuracy, particularly knowing that Rimene was waiting in the wings saying, “Valley are hitting their straps lately and giving away penalties against them is dangerous. That showed with Ben kicking 12 points against us.”


Rimene notched his fourth penalty shortly after half time to give Valley its first lead at 12-10 with 35 minutes left in regulation. McNeish replied moments later to swing the lead back to Scottish at 13-12, before a try from scrumhalf Duploy changed the lead for a third time in the half, and put the defending grand champions in the driver’s seat for good.


Duploy’s try was initiated by a good half-break from Matt Rosslee, who carried the ball down to 30 metres from the Scottish posts. Duploy, who had pestered Scottish all day, was on the spot swiftly and despite being left with work to do he finished well with a hard slanting run over 20 metres bringing him over the line for Valley’s first try in the 70th minute.  Rimene added the conversion as Valley led 19-12 with the clock running out.  


Scottish twice worked their way into scoring position late, but errors crept into their play as they pressed their attack frantically and they would never threaten to close the gap.


“We created some good opportunities and that try at the beginning was good, but we needed to keep the ball in hand more, because when we do, we look good. We couldn’t get through our phases today; we created some positives but we couldn’t finish them,” said Hammond.


“You have those games sometimes, but for our standards it’s not good enough. We weren’t in the race today and that wasn’t good enough and the guys know it. They’re disappointed, but we’ll take it as a kick in the butt and that’s a good thing for us,” he added.


Today’s result also sees Valley lift the Broonie Quaich for the first time this year.  They will defend the Quaich at their remaining home games for as long as they can hold it.


Kowloon notched a second win on the trot for the first time this season after beating Tigers 29-25.  It was a game of two quarters as Kowloon leapt out to a seemingly unassailable 24-0 lead after the opening 18 minutes, just to see Tigers close the gap to 20-24 by half-time.  


Flyhalf Jack Hughes was immense for Kowloon, striking three conversions, a penalty, and scoring a try, to account for 14 of their 24 points in the opening phase.


After frustrating coach Sam Hocking with another slow start, Tigers quickly regrouped and went on a scoring spree of their own, as Dan Barlow, Casey Stone and Alex Woodburn posted unanswered tries in the second quarter. Fullback Robbie Keith converted Woodburn’s try and added a penalty to close the gap to four points at half-time.


The seesaw slowed then stopped in the second half as both sides mustered only one try apiece.  Lewis Warner extended Kowloon’s lead to nine, 29-20, with a 53rd minute try, before Tigers’ Lafaele Ikenasio made it interesting with a 78th minute score reducing the deficit to within a try, but Kowloon held off the late surge.


Natixis HKFC defended its home turf smartly against Sandy Bay with a commanding first half performance that saw the hosts build a 33-13 lead at the break.


Club’s pack did much of the early damage with hooker Campbell Wakely scoring a first half brace, the first after just four minutes, followed by flanker Sam Pim and No.8 Paul Gualino. Fullback Nate de Thierry represented the backs with a try, before Wakely’s second ended the half.  Glyn Hughes added four conversions for Club, while Jack Metters converted two first half penalties for Sandy Bay and scored and converted a try on 40 minutes to leave the score at 36-13.


They kept their foot on the gas in the second half to run out 54-24 winners.