Rainy conditions could not dampen the enthusiasm
of the Hong Kong Rugby Union Premiership sides in Saturday’s
kick-off of the 2015/16 Season at Kings Park.
Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers set the tone early
on, storming to a commanding 26-14 win over Natixis Hong Kong
Football Club in the first match of the season.
The win for Tigers under new coach Craig Stewart
is the first for the club in more than two seasons of Premiership
Rugby action, setting the stage for a compelling season ahead.
Tigers opened the scoring against HKFC in the 4th minute when prop
Dan Barlow bulled over from in close. Scrumhalf Matt Price added
the conversion and would go on to add three successful penalties
in the first half alone en route to a man of the match performance. HKFC and Hong Kong fly-half Niall Rowark
uncharacteristically missed two kickable penalties to keep his
side in contention early on.
Price’s boot had pushed Tigers
ahead 16-0 without reply from HKFC when centre Ben Axten-Burrett
crashed over in the 37th minute to give Football Club some
much-needed momentum heading into the halftime break. Rowark’s
converted the try to close HKFC’s deficit to 7-16 at the half.
Faulted in previous seasons for letting leads slip through their
fingers, this Tigers outfit was clinical throughout, opening the
second half by parking deep in the HKFC half for nearly 20
The unceasing pressure wore down the
HKFC defence, forcing Club to concede another kickable penalty to
Price who extended the Tigers lead to 19-7.
HKFC looked like
they would mount a late comeback when flanker Edward Botha pushed
over from in close on one of Club’s rare forays in Tigers
territory. Rowark’s conversion closed the gap to 19-14 with 13
But the Tigers had come too far - and waited
too long - for this moment. They recovered superbly to push deep
into HKFC territory once again, methodically working their way to
Club’s try-line before fly-half Simeon James spotted the gap out
wide to cross over in the corner. Price converted James’s try to
push his side ahead 26-14 with 10 minutes left.
relented and were soon attacking again, looking to exploit any
gaps emerging in the Tigers defence but the line held strong and
the Tigers roared to their first Premiership win of the last two
Proud Tigers coach Craig Stewart commented on the
performance saying, “It was a really positive start to the season.
We controlled that game throughout and when we had momentum, we
kept it. We didn't let them create anything so it was a good
result and well deserved. We know we have this type of performance
in us. We have a group of guys that can fight for a long time, but
perhaps had lost that control previously but today we controlled
the game for long periods.
“Even when we were under pressure at
the end through our own mistakes we recovered well. It shows the
ability we have to get back into it and to fight for games. This
win will give us confidence now. Especially the guys who have been
a part of a pretty miserable two years at the Club - it means so
much to them.
“We will need to keep that confidence going
forward because there are some really good sides in the league,
there’s no doubt about that - and some good coaches who have their
teams prepared well. Hopefully we can keep things going and have a
really competitive six-team league this season,” Stewart added.
Tigers' scrumhalf Matt Price was named man of the match for his
performance, striking four of six penalties and two conversions to tally 16 points of his sides 26 points on the day.
in Saturday’s other men’s premiership matches followed the formbook
from last season with the defending Grand and League Champions, Societe Generale Valley and Leighton Asia HKCC respectively, both
picking up where they left off in March.
HKCC turned away the
challenge of Sabre Kowloon 26-10 to retain the Broony Quaich, Hong
Kong rugby’s Ranfurly Shield style competition, for the start of
the season. The Quaich will be up for grabs next week in Aberdeen
when HKCC host Hong Kong Scottish.
deteriorating as the afternoon went on it was a testament to the
boots of the top teams that the scores came down primarily to
goal-kicking. HKCC flyhalf Jason Kjestrup had a strong outing to
start the season with four penalties and two conversions to reward
his team’s forays into Kowloon turf.
Kowloon opened the
scoring with flyhalf Chris McAdam slotting an early penalty before
Kjestrup clawed back the lead with three straight penalty kicks.
Late in the first half, Kowloon flanker Phil Whitfield was sent to
the sin bin putting his side under pressure and forcing Kowloon to
concede first a penalty and moments later a penalty try.
scrumhalf Rhodri Needham then worked his away across the line in
the 38th minute for the Cricketer’s second score under the man
advantage. Needham’s try and Kjestrup’s conversion sent HKCC into
halftime with a 23-3 lead.
Kowloon would have to wait until
deep in the second half to get their next points with centre Jack
Neville scoring a pretty try, which McAdam converted to close the
gap to 23-10. Kjestrup added a late penalty to bring the final
score to 26-10 for the Cricketers. Flanker Matt Lamming was named
Man of the Match for HKCC.
The finale of the first Super
Saturday of the season between Societe Generale Valley and
Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish was played in heavy rain and blustery
conditions - preventing either side from truly showing what they
will offer this season. The conditions saw the game break down
with both sides conceding penalties.
Ultimately Valley played
the better wet weather rugby with fly-half Reece Hamon putting on
a pristine display with the boot, notching four penalties - three
in the second half - to help the defending Grand Champions to a
New Scottish signing George Flemming put his team on
the board early on with a try near the posts but fly-half David
Bird missed the conversion, before adding a penalty minutes later,
to give Scottish an 8-3 lead in the 20th minute.
responded quickly with Hong Kong prop Leon Wei Hon Sum barreling
over in reply. Hamon’s conversion was successful as Valley leveled
the scores in the 26th minute, before taking the lead late in the
half after a try from winger Adrien Braha Lonchant. Hamon’s
conversion brought the score to 15-8 at the break. Hamon’s three
second half strikes gave Valley the win 24-8.
Valley centre Ed
Rolston was the man of the match in the finale.
In round one
action from the HKRU Women’s Premiership, Natixis HKFC Ice
celebrated their first foray in the Premiership for several seasons with a 20-7 win over Sabre Kowloon Ladies.
In the last
two matches CPM Gai Wu Falcons and Valley Black Ladies again
demonstrated that they are the strongest outfits in local women’s
rugby with Falcons tipping SCAA First Pacific Causeway Bay 22-0.
Valley Black continued their undefeated run from last season –
when they won both the League and Grand Championship – beating Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers 17-0.
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