02 11月 2019

Natixis HKFC host Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers in tomorrow’s Saxo Market Premiership game of the week at Football Club at 14.00.  Kerry Hotel Kowloon welcome Herbert Smith Freehills HKU Sandy Bay to Kings Park at 15.00, while Societe Generale Valley take on Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish at 14.00 in the fourth of ten rounds in the Saxo Markets Premiership.


The Tigers claimed their first points last week when they came back behind Ian Etheridge’s try at the death to salvage a draw against Scottish, 16-all.


It was the first blot on the Scottish playbook, bringing their record to two wins, one draw and no losses, and dropping them into a share of the lead with Valley on ten points, with Football Club a single point adrift.


Encouraging signs at Tigers include the early impact from new fly half / fullback Michael Moloney, who came across from Melbourne Rising in Australia’s NPC and has already made a difference with his boot since arriving a fortnight ago. His pressure conversion of Etheridge’s effort salvaged the draw against Scottish, and provided the final margin in a tight kicking duel with his Scottish counterpart Gregor McNeish.


Tigers hope to conjure up more road magic when they travel to Sports Road to take on Club, who beat Kowloon comfortably last week to stay in striking distance of defending their league title. With the co-league leaders facing off, coach Jack Wiggins’ men will be eyeing a chance to re-claim a share of first place after the dust settles on Saturday.


Valley produced the superior second half last week to win an arm wrestle with Sandy Bay. With coach Andrew Kelly calling for more from his team it would have been a difficult week at training in the Valley ahead of the all-important clash with Scottish. 


Scottish had the edge in the season’s first meeting between the two sides, back in September in the Premiership Challenge Trophy. Scottish won a barnburner at home, 32-29, after coming back from a 15-10 deficit with a blistering 17-point start to the second half. Valley stormed back late but Scottish produced a third try late to maintain their slim final buffer.


Even with the addition of his Elite Rugby Programme stars like Josh Dowsing, Kane Boucaut, Dayne Jans and Jack Parfitt for this encounter, Scottish coach Craig Hammond knows the degree of difficulty will be even higher this weekend.


“First of all, we are glad to get an opportunity to make up for our last game. Tigers came back at the end to get the draw, which was really frustrating,” said Hammond.


“At this level, you simply can’t give teams the opportunity to come back into games. We started flat and Tigers made us pay for that. It’s disappointing, as it would have been good to be able to go into the Valley three for three.


“The pitch there is smaller than we like. We like to throw the ball around, but less space is going to make things more physical. They have a big pack and are very physical; they like to establish that dominance up front, so we have a job to do there.”


Valley will be without captain Rob Lennox this weekend but the forward are strong with Tau Koloamatangi, Carl Marks, Martin Muller and Toby Fenn all starting, alongside new arrival this season Sion Bennett at No.8 and South African Nyasha Tarusenga, who slots into the second row after a solid debut at flanker last week.


A dangerous backline sees Hong Kong fly half Matt Rosslee starting at the pivot, with finishers out wide in imports Peni Latu (centre) and Whiria Meltzer (playing fullback on Saturday) joined by Hong Kong wing Harry Sayers and South China Tigers scrumhalf Ruan Du Plooy.


Hammond knows sees it as a line-up that can punish the slightest mistake: “You can’t give away opportunities cheaply against Valley. We need to disciplined, resist giving up easy penalties and keep them out of our 22. It’s a good challenge, but we are ready for it.


“Every game is important now. After Saturday, we only have six more games, so there is a lot riding on it, but we can only take it a game at a time. We can’t look ahead too much. There is a lot riding on it, but at the same time it has to be just another game for us.


“We are looking forward to going across for the early kick-off, getting the job done and then watching the World Cup final together, which will be good for the guys,” added Hammond.


Unlike the club’s international namesake, this Scottish outfit will be hoping to have something to celebrate on Rugby World Cup finals day.