Originally "Hong Kong Premiership week three round-up: goodbye losing skids, hello challengers" by Andrew McNicol, South China Morning Post, Nov 23rd 2020
It was a memorable week for the underdogs as both the Hong Kong men’s and women’s Premierships saw dramatic comebacks and the ending of losing skids. As the city continues its fight against Covid-19, mask wearing and social distancing protocols remained mandatory in week three.
Following two rounds of feeling out and gauging this year’s league standard, the Saxo Markets Men’s Premiership and KPMG Women’s Premiership are now expected to press on – there is simply no time for excuses in this shortened campaign.
Last season’s men’s league trailers Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers earned an emphatic first win in two seasons at the expense of Herbert Smith Freehills HKU Sandy Bay, while women’s contenders DAC Kowloon won their first four points to vacate that bottom spot.
In the men’s, Tigers outworked HKU Sandy Bay 16-13 much to the delight of coach Sam Hocking and fans, who had not seen the team win since 2018. Captain Josh Hrstich declared that the boys are back on track having been able to “hang in there” and win fixtures that “we probably [would have] dropped” previously. HKU Sandy Bay coach Brett Wilkinson could not hide his disappointment, calling on his players to “pick themselves up again” after slipping back down to fifth-place. Meanwhile, reigning champions Natixis Hong Kong Football Club edged Kowloon 20-19 in what could have been another remarkable upset. An early haul of tries was just enough to keep Kowloon’s late surge at bay, but surrounding players and coaches will have perked up at Football Club’s apparent vulnerability. Jack Wiggins’ men nonetheless hold a healthy five-point lead and higher points difference than the rest of the field after three weeks of the season.
In the final men’s game, Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish snagged their first win of the season thanks to a high-scoring 36-22 victory against Societe Generale Valley. The result only further narrows the gap between second and sixth place, which is now only four points. In the women’s league, Kowloon’s defensive lockdown helped them to a 12-5 win over HKFC Ice and avenged the men’s team’s loss to the same club earlier in the day. Tries from Kowloon captain Victoria Wong Ching-hei and Anjalika Ybema ensured enough points despite a late cross from Football Club’s Fion Got. Kowloon coach Terry Sibanda, who was searching for form after a humbling defeat to Gai Wu in the previous round, was undoubtedly delighted that his defensive strategies paid off as they finally gained some breathing room from the bottom. HKFC Ice coach Peter Ayres will want his team to move swiftly on from this “overcomplicated” display. Elsewhere, Tigers Ladies ran SCAA Causeway Bay Phoenix ragged with a 72-0 win on Saturday evening. New star winger Chong Ka-yan scored an impressive five tries with Natasha Olson-Thorne scoring three and Cheung Hoi-ying two. Winnie Siu Wing-ni, Nam Ka-man and Bena Yu Bo-yan also got on the scoresheet. Tigers are now outright leaders having gone three for three with bonus points, while newly promoted SCAA Causeway Bay are stuck on the other end of the table. They turn their attention to next weekend’s match-up against Kowloon, who are the next-closest team. Finally, Valley Black Ladies got back to winning ways with a character-building 25-17 win against in-form contenders Gai Wu Falcons. The game was dictated by Tse Wing-kiu’s first-half try before she crossed again in the second. Valley’s Rebecca Thompson also got on the scoresheet to see the game out. The outcome will have been a tough one for Gai Wu, whose tryscorers Abigail Chan Pak-ling and Sham Wai-sum at least helped them to a bonus point, firming them up in second place. With just seven rounds to go in the league, every single point is vital towards securing end-of-season targets.