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Mon, 5 October 2015

Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers Open HKRU Premiership Season with First Win in Two Years

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 uninterrupted minutes.

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 minutes remaining.

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.

HKFC never 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 seasons.

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.

The results 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.

With conditions 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.

HKCC 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 24-8 win.

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.

Valley’s pack 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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