The “Prems” found themselves in uncharted territory entering the 2018/19 season. Following a disappointing 2017/18 season, they found themselves in a new strip, at a new club - HKU Sandy Bay RFC.
There was a new premiership team in town - even though the coaching and playing roster had changed little.
2018/19 didn't start well, with 12 of the squad out with injuries for the first few weeks and still burning to find some cohesion, confidence and self-belief. By the end of January 2019, just two wins from ten games belied 4 "close ones" where a losing bonus point was earned. They were anchored to the bottom of the Premiership with only 5 rounds remaining.
And then it happened - the spark, the switch was flicked, the Bay came alove - 5 straight bonus point victories secured a desperate top four finish and an away semi-final against league winners, HKFC. The Bay "travelled" to Sports Road and in their most effeective game of the season, gave HKFC a proper towelling, 31-10, with Angus Cameron dotting down a hattrick and Club only able to eek out a penalty try. As amazing as the performance was, it was almost overshadowed and somewhat attributed to the massive support that at turned up from across the junior and senior grades.
Next up was the Grand Championship Final against HK Scottish at King's Park in the worst conditions possible on March 9th. Again, the support came in droves with the off-field Bay army assisting the players with the momentum that had been built in previous weeks. Sandy Bay took the lead in the 77th minute through a converted try to No. 8 Luke van der Smit and then an epic final tustle went three minutes into overtime as Scottish threw everything at the Bay defence for 30 phases. The defence held and Sandy Bay and their fans celebrated a thrilling 26-23 victory and one of the great sporting comebacks of Hong Kong rugby. The party lasted for weeks.
This is a team that has tasted much success over the past two decades with League wins in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2014 and 2015 and Grand Championship Final appearances in 2005, 2007, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 with victories in 2002 and 2006.
The 2019/20 season will present the squad with new challenges as they look to retain the high standards they set themselves in the second half of last season. Head Coach, South African born, Brett Wilkinson has just re-signed a new two-year contract must contend with a handful of retiring senior players and his own quiet expectation of his own development. The quietly spoken former prop forward, has 183 appearances for Connacht in Ireland to his name and is a big believer in humility, respect and pride and expects high standards from his players.
With the Club fully behind the Premiership side, Wilkinson and his coaching team and squad of players can expect the support and togetherness to carry them forward from off the field as they reset, refresh and set out on the 2019/20 campaign.