30 Nov 2019

Societe Generale Valley produced a 28-point second half to beat Kerry Hotel Kowloon, 36-14, in today’s Saxo Markets Premiership game of the week. In other Premiership action, Natixis HKFC beat visiting Bloomberg HK Scottish 28-22, while Herbert Smith Freehills HKU Sandy Bay edged Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers, 34-31.


The results leave HKFC in pole position with five wins against one loss, good for 22 points, followed by Valley in second on 20. Sandy Bay leap-frogged Kowloon (third, 15 points), as did Scottish, whose bonus point for a loss within seven puts them in fourth on 13 points. Kowloon slipped to fifth ahead of Tigers as the league approaches the seventh of ten rounds next week.


Kowloon will be left rueing missed opportunities after an impressive opening half where they ran rampant behind a committed rush defence and heavy tackling that was creating scoring chances. Loose play in key moments kept Kowloon from gaining more than seven points, while Valley made the most of its two forays in enemy territory, coming away with eight points after the first half.


A mounting injury toll for Kowloon, and some impact play from Valley’s reserves bench proved the difference in the second half as the hosts posted 28 points to run home 36-14 victors.


Kowloon blunted Valley’s physical attack early, with its back row of Hong Kong stars contesting every metre and the typically rock-solid centre pairing of Chris Kinloch and Lewis Warner containing the wrecking ball runs of Valley centre Peni Latu.


The positive work was undone at key moments, with knock-ons and other unforced errors leaving them scoreless until the 20th minute, when another sustained wave of pressure created space for wing Huw Alexander to score the game’s first try. A tough conversion from fly half Joe Barker left Kowloon up 7-3 after an opening penalty from Valley ten Paddy McDuell.


Kowloon resumed the attack in the second quarter, but Valley’s bend but don’t break defence was up to the task, as the balance began to shift and leaks began springing in the visitors’ defence.


Harry Sayers was left unmarked on the wing late in the half as Valley took points out from a second trip to the Kowloon red zone, triggered by a fortunate kick from hand that got behind the defence. McDuell’s conversion from the touchline was wide but Valley led 8-7 at the break.


Fuelled by some strong performances off the bench, Valley picked up the pressure in a second half that moved from set piece to set piece, playing to the hosts’ advantage.


With momentum teetering before the stoppage, the opening exchanges in the second half would be telling. Kowloon again worked its way into attacking position early on, generating a penalty close to Valley’s sticks, but opted to kick for the corner and ultimately turned the ball over from the lineout after another patient defensive stand from Valley.

The red and black machine never looked back from that crucial possession, pulling away with four tries in the final 20 minutes.


The scoring was started by a superb intercept try from reserve back Mitchell Purvis, who carved open the defence on a 40-metre effort to put Valley ahead 15-7. Minutes later, Valley turned a mid-field penalty into attacking lineout platform close to the line. Taking cleanly, they camped out for a dozen phases before Rob Lennox squeezed through a gap to push the lead to 22-7.


Kowloon threatened to claw its way back into it after scoring from a well constructed driving maul that picked up 20 metres and a few wingers, with Alexander coming up with his second of the day. Barker’s conversion pulled Kowloon within reach at 22-14 with 15 minutes left.


Valley quickly squelched any hopes of a comeback with a try from reserve prop Grant Kemp to push the ticker to 29-14, before closing out matters with one of the tries of the season. Purvis was again the engineer, starting the move with some nice stepping through the gain-line, before finishing it fifty metres later in front of the supporters stands, after the ball had moved through eight sets of hands.


Valley coach Andrew Kelly appreciated both the nature and magnitude of the win, saying, 

“Kowloon had us under a lot of pressure. Physically in the contact area they were beating us, so we were lucky to go in 8-7 at half time.


“Our bench and our attitude improved in the second half. We were able to get a bit more possession, and get some go-forward to convert some of that pressure into points. Our bench did really well, James King and Ben Higgins helped our scrum out and our lineout started working better, so that was pleasing.


“In this league, everyone is playing well, and everyone is a threat, so we are absolutely delighted to get five points there,” Kelly said.


Delight was replaced by disappointment for Kowloon coach Scott Sneddon, who knew the game was on offer, saying, “That first half was a playoff performance from us. We were strong, but we weren’t clinical. We got into their 22 a few times and didn’t come away with points through our own unforced errors.


“We had another long period in their 22 in the second half, and maybe took some wrong decisions and didn’t get the points. If we had, we would have been leading 10-8 and it could have been a different game but credit to Valley they put it away in the end.


“A bit of a shame to concede a few tries in the last 10 minutes, maybe it wasn’t a true reflection of our performance, but we have got to be clinical. We weren’t today and that cost us, if you don’t take your chances it’s difficult to push on,” Sneddon added.


Kowloon, who slid from third to fifth with the loss, continue a season defining swing of games with Sandy Bay and Scottish next up on the cards, and a chance to climb back into the final four.