Societe Generale Valley all but secured their second consecutive league championship with a bonus-point 29-3 win over Bloomberg HK Scottish in the Rugbypass.com Men’s Premiership on Saturday.
Valley now lead their closest rival Scottish by five points with only one round remaining, as well as boasting a far superior points difference that ensures only a miracle could see Scottish take top spot.
After Scottish scored first through a penalty to fly half Gregor McNeish, Valley piled on 29 unanswered points en route to a comprehensive victory.
“I think focus wise it is probably up there [with our best wins of the season],” Valley coach Andrew Kelly said.
“The guys were really clued in, stuck to the systems we were after and the defence was great. Only letting in three points was superb.”
It took until the 14th minute of the game for McNeish to open the scoring, with his penalty following a yellow card to Valley’s Toby Fenn.
Both sides displayed a willingness to throw the ball around but neither got too close to their opponent’s line in the first quarter, besides an effort from Scottish winger Ben Cullen that came up agonisingly short.
If anything, going a man down sparked Valley into action, with the league leaders attacking with more purpose. Their efforts were rewarded after 23 minutes, with centre Tiger Bax slicing through the Scottish defensive line to cross and make it 5-3 in his side’s favour.
Prop Grant Kemp was in on the act soon after for Valley, finding the line to make it 10-3. The margin would have been greater if not for the wayward kicking of Ben Rimene, with the usually reliable Valley fly half missing a penalty and two conversions.
His opposite number McNeish had a chance to narrow the margin just before the break, but couldn’t quite go the journey from out wide.
The second half saw Scottish attack with renewed vigour, although a string of handling errors hindered their progress.
“We have just got to execute, we got in their 22 probably six or seven times and out of that five or six of those we turned the ball over,” Scottish coach Craig Hammond said.
“It’s a learning curve for us and we’ve got to win next week and try and get a home semi-final.”
The host’s best chance for a try came 10 minutes into the second half when Marcus Ramage leapt over the line, only to be held up and forced out of play.
As they so often do, Valley found a way to wrest back momentum and were rewarded when replacement prop Taukiha’amea Koloamatangi barged over for a try to make it 15-3.
The margin remained at 12 points entering the final quarter of the match, but Valley could smell blood and continued to stretch the Scottish defence.
Matt Rosslee, who started on the bench, put the result beyond doubt with a try with 15 minutes remaining, with Rimene finally finding his radar to slot the conversion and push the margin out to 19 points.
Valley was in the points again in the shadows of the final siren, earning a penalty try which Rimene duly converted. The visitors finished full of running to show they’ll again be hard to stop in the race for the grand championship.
“For me the job isn’t done, we’re at home [next week against Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC], it’s the last game of the season and we need to win,” Kelly said.
“That’s the bottom line. I’ve always said we need to build momentum towards the final so you just cannot stop playing for any reason. We need to focus massively on Cricket Club. They almost beat us last time so we’ll be up for it.”
In other RugbyPass.com Premiership action, HKCC edged Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers 24-20 despite losing out in the try stakes 3-0 with fullback James Love slotting eight penalties. HKCC led 9-5 at halftime after three of Love’s efforts with hooker Matt Keay crossing over for Tigers who saw centre Joseph Ikenasio sent to the sin-bin midway through the half.
Tigers conceded two more Love penalties before winger Yiu Kam-shing scored added a second try with flyhalf Robbie Keith converting, closing the gap to 15-13. Love pushed the gap to five points after Tigers saw a second players, Chris Maize, sent to the sin-bin in the 68th minute.
Love slotted two more penalties in the final ten minutes giving the Cricketers a comfortable 24-13 lead before Will Eversfield’s try at the buzzer with Keith’s second conversion bringing the final score to 24-20.
Kowloon maintained their perfect start to 2017 and cemented their hold on third place on the table with a 37-20 bonus point win over Natixis HKFC . Flyhalf Jack Neville collected 22 points with an all-round performance including a try, four conversions and three penalties as Kowloon blew open a 10-6 lead at half-time to notch their fourth straight win since the break.