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USRC Tigers extended their winning run to five

Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers extended their winning run to five in the Old Mutual International Men’s Premiership on Saturday, defeating Natixis HKFC 24-22 in a nail-biter at Football Club.Elsewhere, Societe Generale Valley took down rivals Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC 43-10, while Bloomberg HK Scottish breezed past Kowloon 49-21.

Football Club had all the running early on their home deck, creating opportunities deep in attack and keeping the Tigers guessing.

Two missed penalty attempts from fullback Glyn Hughes halted HKFC’s early progress, but Hughes was involved soon after as flanker Max Denmark found the line after some slick passing from his teammates.

As can often be the way, Hughes slotted by far the hardest attempt of his first three, splitting the sticks from the sideline to make it 7-0.

Tigers’ flanker Joe Ellyatt laid down a marker for his side, landing a crunching tackle on HKFC fly half Nate de Thierry.The Tigers were on the board soon after, with winger Sam Purvis dotting down in the corner and Robbie Keith booting the extras to ensure scores were level as the first quarter ticked by.

“Against Cricket Club last week, it took us a while to get going and we’ve been like that for the last couple of games,” Tigers coach Sam Hocking said.

“Joey and Purvo have been two outstanding players for us this year and they really raised the tempo of the game.”

Keith and scrum half Josh Walden got busy soon after to set up Tigers’ second try, with Jamie Chipman the beneficiary as the visitors went up 14-7.

A Hughes penalty was the only score for the remainder of the half, ensuring Tigers a 14-10 lead at the break.

Tigers carried their momentum into the second half, with centre Braam Gerber barging over the line after a sustained offensive push, with Keith again on target to push the margin to 11 points.

A yellow card to No 8 Josh Hrstich made life difficult for the Tigers and Hughes immediately made them pay, finding the try line and converting his own work to leave the score at 21-17 with 20 minutes remaining.

Another Keith penalty gave Tigers some breathing space and when HKFC replacement Marno Meyer received a yellow card with seven minutes remaining, Football Club were well and truly up against it.

But no one told them and scrum half Henry Poon found the line to bring them within two points after 80 minutes, only for Russ Webb to miss the conversion that would have drawn the game.

“I said to the boys, we are making it hard on ourselves with the penalties we give away. For us, more than anything it’s about being smart in the right areas and putting pressure on teams,” Hocking said.

“They were also ways going to come hard, the scrum was to and fro throughout the game. We put them under a bit of pressure at the beginning then once they made their changes they got at us a little bit. They were always going to come back with seven points in it.”

Hocking praised a number of his charges, as well as the overall attitude of his group.

“Winning does become a habit and we’re grinding out these games at the moment. I’m just looking forward to the time when we click and get everything right,” he said.

“Joe Ellyatt had an outstanding game again, just his work rate, and the back-row as a whole, even the changes. Calvin Hunter when he comes on makes a difference and it’s good having that quality bench to make the changes and change the game.”

In the Old Mutual International Championship, University Wizards saw their run end at five matches after they turned over the Old Mutual International Championship Challenge Cup to Natixis HKFC Scorpions after a 16-6 loss. Adding salt to the wound, HKFC leap-frogged Wizards into second spot in the league behind unbeaten Typhoons.

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USRC Tigers extended their winning run to five