HONG KONG—On Saturday Jan 14 in Round 12 of the Hong Kong Premiership, Societe Generale Valley rediscovered form to decisively beat Natixis HKFC 14-33 with a bonus point victory, to ensure they remain top of the league. After Valley’s indifferent performance against Kowloon last week and HKFC brimming with confidence after their come-from-behind win against HKCC, most pundits expected a close contest between these two sides.
HKFC start with strong intent: after 6 minutes, centre Tom Isaacs, split the Valley defense with neat grubber kick, picked-up over the line by fullback Niall Rowark to open the scoring for HKFC. Flyhalf Nate de Thierry added the conversion. HKFC led 7-0 and looked the brighter of the two sides. The first quarter of the match was dominated by HKFC and they should have capitalized on scoring opportunities they created.
As the first half wore on, Valley inched back into the game. The Valley pack was proving sharper in set and loose play and offering enough ball for flyhalf Ben Rimene to influence the pace of the game. After 26 minutes and sustained Valley pressure Rimene created a line-break, initiated some sharp passing that made space for winger Matthew Bell to score Valley’s first try. The conversion was added by Rimene to tie the score at 7-7.
Then perhaps the game changing phase; at 34 minutes HKFC winger Charlie Higson-Smith was sin-binned for a high tackle; minutes later, after some confident, bullocking runs at the line, Valley prop Tuakiha’amea Koloamatangi forced his way over for the second try, again converted by Rimene pushing the lead out to 7-14.
The just before half time, another yellow card against HKFC this time it was Niall Rowark sin-binned and the resultant Valley dominance led to scrumhalf Ruan Duplooy scoring Valley’s third try. It was 7-19 at the break: Valley ascendant and HKFC struggling with 13 players on the pitch.
Valley began the second half where they left-off in the first and with the advantage in numbers, scored twice in the first 5 minutes. The first by Toby Fenn barreling over for another pack-driven effort, and the second by prop Grant Kemp, set-up after his fellow prop broke the HKFC line with a deft side-step. Both tries were converted by Rimene and Valley looked comfortable 7-33 ahead, scenting victory with the bonus point added to the bargain.
Credit to HKFC, they came back into the game with try by centre Ben Axten-Burrett on 70 minutes, converted by de Thierry to narrow the score to 14-33, but despite finishing the game strongly it was too little too late. Valley had determined the outcome with four tries in 15 minutes spread of the end of the first and beginning of the second half.
Valley will be well-pleased with victory, not only was it comprehensive, but included a bonus point, and restored confidence after last week’s poor showing. The Valley pack won the game: four of the five Valley tries came from forward pressure where Valley out-muscled HKFC; even the most impressive line-breaks were by Valley forwards, Thomas Lamboley and Taukiha’amea Koloamatangi. Had HKFC not conceded two costly yellow cards, would the result have been different? Maybe, but the play-offs will answer that!
In other matches on Saturday, Scottish continued their fine form with a bonus point win over HKCC 45-29: and Kowloon’s good form continued with 24-12 win over Tigers.
Valley remains top of the Premiership with 40 points; with Scottish on 39; HKFC on 31 (after gaining 5 points from the cancelled HKCC match); Kowloon on 30; HKCC on 17 and Tigers on 14. There are only three more rounds of the Premiership, which is a battle between Valley and Scottish, with Kowloon as a wild card. The Championship play-offs, with matches so close this season, and players returning from injury, means any two sides can meet in the final on 11th March.
Grahame Carder is a sports enthusiast, former player and now resident in Hong Kong.