HONG KONG—Round 3 of the Old Mutual Hong Kong Premiership, Société Générale Valley narrowly beat Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC 29-26 at Aberdeen Sports Ground. It was a match Valley did just enough to win, based on a purple patch at the start of the second half, and confined HKCC to their third loss of the season. HKCC remain winless, with little to show for their three evenly contested matches this season.
HKCC started brightly and after 12 minutes, No. 8, Mark Prior barged over for a try converted by scrumhalf Jack Metters, to give the Cricketers a 0-7 lead. Valley responded immediately from the kick-off with a try from scrumhalf Ruan DuPlooy, who ran through the HKCC defence, and fullback Doug Fluker added the 2 points to even the score 7-7.
The match was patchy and error-strewn, and Valley’s sloppy passing presented HKCC with loose ball, snapped-up by Cricketers centre Gair Currie, who kicked on, out-outsprinted the Valley cover to touch down under the posts, presenting Jack Metters with an easy conversion, and give HKCC the lead 7-14.
Both teams were struggling with continuity although HKCC looked sharper, but couldn’t impose themselves on Valley. On 30 minutes, Duplooy created an opening, and set-up No.8 Carl Marks to score, and Fluker to convert, to even the score 14-14.
The last word of the half was with HKCC, who work the ball well to create space for flanker Matt Arvier to score in the corner. The conversion was missed, but HKCC went into halftime deservedly 14-19 ahead.
Valley began the second-half with purpose, and for the first 15 minutes looked like defending Champions. They scored two well-executed tries, by winger Matthew Bell and substitute Karetai Williams, with one converted by Fluker, who also added a penalty goal. Valley now led 29-19, and looked as though they were going to run away with the match.
Instead, it was the Cricketers who fought back, with a try by lock Lawrence Babe, converted by Metters, putting HKCC only three points behind 29-26. Despite dominating the final 10 minutes, they could not break the Valley defence, and will regret this; it is a match they should have won. Despite a lacklustre display, honours at the final whistle went to Valley, who are learning to win ugly this season. HKCC should use the league hiatus to regroup, and think how to change narrow losses into victories.
In other matches, Natixis HKFC remain undefeated beating Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers 20-15; and Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish snatched victory over Kowloon 20-16 in another close encounter.
All matches so far, this season have been tight, often decided by less than a converted try; whilst HKFC are undefeated and HKCC winless, it’s remains an open championship; there will be a huge difference between league and knock-out rugby later in the season.
For now, HKFC top the league with 13 points; Scottish second with 10 points, Valley third also with 10 points but a marginally inferior points difference; Tigers fourth with 7 points, Kowloon fifth with 6, and HKCC still rumble at the bottom with 3 points.
Round 4 will be played on Oct 21.
Grahame Carder is a sports enthusiast, former player and resident in Hong Kong.