VALLEY VANQUISH ALL COMERS IN DETTOL HONG KONG PREMIERSHIP ROUND 5

18 Oct 2021


Societe Generale Valley beat IMPACTHK HKU Sandy Bay, 16-7, in the Dettol Men’s Premiership tonight at Happy Valley, while Societe Generale Valley ladies beat SCAA First Pacific Causeway Bay 54-0 in the Dettol Women’s Premiership game of the week.

Both teams entered the men’s tie chasing a complete performance, and both are still chasing that goal as conditions, miscues and penalties conspired to rob the match of much flow. A high penalty count put the game in amber at times, but those moments offered something for the purist as the two heavyweight forward packs in Hong Kong rugby traded shots at scrum time in an entertaining battle.


Ultimately there was nothing in it as Valley pushed a 10-7 lead at half time, (after a try from flanker Dom Heggelin and a penalty and conversion from Thomas Smith), into a 16-7 win, with Smith adding two more penalties in the second stanza. Sandy Bay’s scoring came in the first half from a bruising drive from No.8 Luke van der Smit with Gair Currie adding the extras. Valley fly-half Smith’s improved with the boot after struggling in his season debut in round 3. He was a perfect four for four from the tee today to give Valley the slim edge it needed to outlast a committed Sandy Bay XV.


Valley enjoyed the early run of play, parking in the visitors half for the first ten minutes, but a committed defensive effort led by van der Smit, lock Mark Prior, and captain Lewis Wilson, blunted the home side’s attacks. Valley’s first points were gifted by penalties as the home team frog-marched up pitch from two Sandy Bay errors to set up Smith’s first shot 10 metres in front of the sticks after four minutes.


Valley botched the re-start in one of many coach-killer plays submitted by both teams. The hosts spoiled another strong chance after 10 minutes with a poor throw to an attacking lineout on Sandy Bay’s try-line.


After weathering the early storm, Van der Smit and Prior did damage with ball in hand, battering the Valley line to give Sandy Bay its first front foot ball in positive territory. Sandy Bay then generated numerous chances of their own that they also failed to convert, including a five-metre scrum on the Valley line on 20 minutes.


With the penalty count rivalling the score in the first half, it was Heggelin who produced a second try in as many games, collecting Valley’s only five-pointer after Sandy Bay’s defence sprung a leak in the corner. Smith converted a difficult kick from the touchline to push the lead to 10-0.


Luke van der Smit scored for The Bay after 30 minutes from an attacking scrum on the Valley five-metre line to close the gap to 10-8. Sandy Bay produced the ball cleanly but Valley put in a magnificent defensive effort staving off a dozen crashes. As play inched closer to the posts the opportunity was ripe for a van der Smit carry from deep in the line. The burly South African back rower made sure, bowling over the defence for the score, with Currie’s conversion closing the gap to 10-7 at half time.

 


The forwards battle took centre stage early in the second half as Valley conjured a pivotal scrum after the re-start, blowing up the Sandy Bay pack to earn the penalty, which Smith slotted to bring the score to 13-7. Moments later Sandy Bay had a chance to return the favour but were pinged for an early shove at the scrum, allowing Valley to escape the pressure with their backs to the try-line.


As always in an 80-minute arm wrestle, it came down to whose discipline held out longest. Ultimately Sandy Bay cracked, going down to 14 men midway through the second half after a yellow card for a high tackle, with the ensuing penalty making it 16-7.


Valley wing Whirria Meltzer injected some pace late into a game stuck in second gear, but Sandy Bay was equal to the task, gutting out the sin bin with 14-men. With much effort expended in the defence, the visitors lacked the firepower late to close the gap.


Given their steadily building pressure and slim upper hand in the second half, captain and No.8 Sion Bennett felt the win was deserved, “There were a lot of positives. A lot of things still to work on, of course, but at the end of the day we got the win, so we can’t complain.


“They have a big pack and their scrum is tough. After the game my first thought was that we won without dominating in the pack like we typically do; it was kind of nice to get the win in a game like that, where we didn’t really dominate in the set piece.”


Bennett is aware that there is much work left to do: “We’re showing good things in some games and then lacking them in others, so we just need to pull it together a bit more. I was not really worried that we would lose today. Our defence was solid. They had a few dominant carries, but we did not lose our shape or look threatened, which was positive. It’s good to get the win.”

 


The bitter taste of dropping another winnable game was evident for Sandy Bay and their captain Lewis Wilson: “Disappointing; it was pretty poor from us, to be brutally honest. It is the same story of the last few weeks, simple mistakes, playing in wrong areas of the pitch, piling pressure on ourselves through unforced errors. We aren’t challenged by any of the other teams in this league, but we put pressure on ourselves and it’s frustrating.

“I can’t fault the effort. The boys put in the work, and were in absolute bits coming off. The lack of accuracy is killing us, but we can fix that,” added Wilson.

In other results, KPMG HK Scottish broke the duck beating DAC Kowloon 21-20 on a 78th minute penalty strike from captain Gregor McNeish. Natixis HKFC turned in an ominous and composed 52-10 hammering of Kroll USRC Tigers to leapfrog back into first place on the table after Tigers and Kowloon both lost.

In a riveting Dettol Women’s Premiership match, perennial contenders Valley beat a spirited Causeway Bay side fielding numerous aspiring National Age Grade U20s players getting their first taste of Premiership rugby action.

 

 

Valley led 26-0 after a frenetic first half played with real pace and attacking flair by both sides.

The home team’s one-two punch of Samoa international Bella Milo and ex-New Zealand Black Fern Olivia Coady proved too much on the day, with Milo scoring a hat-trick and Coady adding tries in both halves as Valley pushed the lead to 33-0 after a second Coady effort after 48 minutes. From there, Causeway Bay redoubled their defensive effort, squelching numerous attacks with clinical one-on-one tackling to hold Valley to 40points before the final moment of the game.

 

No one could fault Causeway Bay’s effort or zeal, but Valley’s bench depth ultimately overrode the visitors’ gumption, as Causeway Bay allowed two tries in the final minute to lose a fourth game by a greater than 50-point margin.

 

It was a tough battle for Valley and captain Jessica Eden gave credit to the visitors: “They gave us some trouble in the set piece and lineout, but our forwards corrected things in the second half. We turned to the bench and got some new combinations going and they held up pretty well, which is encouraging.”

 

With one round in the books, Eden is pleased with Valley’s progress: “We’re building nicely and feeling good. We’ve won all of our games and we identify fixes after every game. If we keep fixing and improving those things we will end up where we want to be at the end of the season,” added Eden.

 

A determined Causeway Bay coach Prince Wong Tsz-ying believes her young charges will get to where they want to be before the end of the campaign: “This was our best game of the season by far, the environment, the effort, the commitment of the entire team was spot on.

 

“We improved a lot in this game. We executed well and made some real breakthroughs. Unfortunately, after all that hard work our mistakes, our own errors, ruined any momentum and prevented us from taking advantage of the opportunities we made. We defended well for 79 minutes but lost focus and gave up two easy tries in the last minute. That’s not what we’re about. I want my team focused for 80 minutes through the final whistle.

 

“We really held up to their size and physicality and managed the set piece very well, but the girls know there is still a lot to work on.

 

“We won’t take it easy in the bye, we will work hard in the break, and I am sure the team will have a big improvement for the rest of the season. I can’t say our first win is coming soon, but our first try is definitely on the way,” added a confident Wong.

 

In other Dettol Women’s Premiership results, Gai Wu Falcons drew 22-all with DAC Kowloon, while Kroll USRC Tigers held off Natixis HKFC 17-10. Dettol Hong Kong Premiership action will resume on 30 October with the Stadium Series matches between Hong Kong’s most historic rugby rivalry as Natixis HKFC and Societe Generale Valley face off in So Kon Po.

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