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Valley Draw With Tigers Leaves Space for Scottish at Top of HKRU Men's Premiership Table

By RugbyPass
Scrumhalf Kenneth Hsieh Chun-hang impressed on his Premiership debut for Tigers

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Catch the highlights from Round 13 of the HKRU Men’s Premiership.

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Societe Generale Valley drew 29-all with Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers in the RugbyPass.com Premiership Game of the Week.

In other RugbyPass.com Premiership action, Bloomberg HK Scottish beat Natixis HKFC, 27-21, to draw level with Valley at the top of the table, while Kowloon collected its third victory in a row, beating Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC, 47-17, to leap-frog Football Club into third place.

Tigers made Valley’s push for the league championship a little bit harder in overcoming a 19-point half-time deficit to salvage a 29-29 draw.

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Valley didn’t score in the second half as Tigers piled on the pressure in a performance that didn’t surprise coach Craig Stewart.

“We’re a good side, we’ve just got to trust that we’re a good side,” he said. “It’s proof of what we’re capable of, that second 40 [minutes]. We did the simple things well, held on to the ball, turned them around, it’s not complicated.”

The Tigers started with promise, needing just minutes to hit the scoreboard after a string of top passes resulted in an easy try to Casey Stone. With Robbie Keith accurate from the tee, the home side took a 7-0 lead.

Fly half Keith was instrumental as the Tigers controlled the game early, steering his side around the park with precision. But the hosts were unable to keep Valley out of the action for long, with Doug Fluker – playing at fullback – finding the line out wide to open the league leaders’ account.

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It was Valley again only minutes later, with winger Ally Maclay intercepting a Tigers’ pass in his side’s half and charging to the line. After missing his first attempt, Matt Rosslee was on target with the kick as Valley took a 12-7 lead.

A yellow card to Josh Hrstich didn’t help the Tigers cause and Rosslee was again on target with the resultant penalty to make it 15-7, although a Keith penalty soon after brought the margin back to five points.

Valley capitalised on their man advantage with 10 minutes remaining in the half, busting open the Tigers defence to allow Maclay his second try.

In a worrying sign for the hosts, they were caught flat-footed not long after the restart as Valley scrum half Ruan Duplooy waltzed over the line to further extend the margin. With Rosslee converting both efforts, the score ballooned to 29-10 as the break approached and a way back seemed unlikely for Tigers.

Tigers looked a different side in the second half, matching Valley in the opening stages and finding early reward for their effort when Stone crossed for his second try. They gained further momentum when Keith crossed to cut the margin to seven points, genuinely looking the better side as Valley began to tire.

A try to Jamie Chipman and another Keith conversion completed a 20-minute blitz that saw the home side erase a 19-point deficit and level the scores.

A dogged Valley managed to stem the flow and scores remained even with 10 minutes to go, although the Tigers remained the more vocal and energetic of the two teams.

Still it was tied as the 80-minute mark came and went, with Tigers in attack and edging forward. After multiple attempts at cracking the Valley defence, Tigers went for the win through a Keith drop-goal attempt, which was ultimately charged down to ensure the draw.

“It’s disappointing that we went away from our systems and where we’re strong,” Valley coach Andrew Kelly said.

“Some individuals going outside the systems killed us. To be honest we were really focusing on performance [rather than ladder position] and trying to build going into the latter parts of the season and it’s not all negative, but unfortunately it’s a step back from last week.”

Stewart heaped praise on new scrum half Kenny Hsieh Chun-hang after the win, which saw Tigers leapfrog HKCC at the bottom of the ladder: “That’s the first time he’s played for us, he hasn’t even been on the bench. He was really courageous, he kept fighting and scrapping when we had untidy ball.”

Scottish kept the pressure on Valley with a 27-21 win over Football Club in Shek Kip Mei, while Kowloon made it three wins on the trot with a 47-17 victory over struggling HKCC at King’s Park.

A first-minute try to fullback Robbie McDonald, which fly-half Jason Kjestrup converted, gave HKCC the early lead, before Kowloon fly-half Jack Neville clawed back with a penalty in the 25th minute. Kjestrup then pushed HKCC’s lead to 10 points to 3 with his only penalty in the 36th minute.

Tries from flanker James Sawyer and lock Adam Best, both coming in the last three minutes of the half, saw Kowloon surge back to take the lead into the locker rooms at 13-10. Kowloon never looked back, scoring five tries in the second half, including a hat trick from fullback Thomas Bury to inter the Cricketers.

Kowloon scored 37 unanswered points with Bury’s tallies rounded out by a try from scrumhalf Bryn Phillips and a penalty and two conversions from Neville, expanding the gap to 40-10 before HKCC and Hong Kong flanker Matt Lamming scored his side’s first try in the 72nd minute.

Kjestrup’s conversion brought the score to 40-17 Kowloon and the hosts were still not finished, with centre Benjamin Madgwick scoring Kowloon’s seventh try of the outing, Neville’s conversion bringing the final score to 47-17.

Today’s results left Valley and Scottish tied for tops in the league on 43 points while Kowloon claim third (35 points) ahead of HKFC (32). Tigers moved out of the cellar into fifth (17) while HKCC’s tenth loss of the season drops it to the bottom of the league on 15 points. The league will be on hiatus for the Lunar New Year holiday for the coming two weeks with match action resuming on 11 February.

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