Full match replay: https://www.facebook.com/hkusandybayrfc/videos/2506358562977191/
Excerp from https://www.hkrugby.com/news/saxo-market-premiership-underway
2018 league champions Natixis HKFC continued their momentum from the pre-season with a 28-15 victory over defending grand champions Herbert Smith Freehills HKU Sandy Bay, but were also left ruing a missed bonus point opportunity for scoring four tries or more.
Sandy Bay were first on the board after lock Mark Prior forced open some early gaps in Club’s defence with a powerful run through the centres, before offloading to scrumhalf Liam Slatem for the try. Wing Jack Metters was off with the easy conversion on a day where several of Hong Kong’s top place kickers struggled from the tee, leaving the score 5-0.
Football Club shored up its defence well after shipping the early try, stopping Prior and fellow ball carrying threat Luke van der Smit at source for much of the ensuing encounter. Sandy Bay, meanwhile, struggled to come to grips with the ball until the 79th minute when Seb Brien scored their second try to bring the final score to 28-15.
It was a game of pace, intensity and physical commitment with end-to-end action throughout, but understandably missing the sharpness of a mid-season encounter, as both sides struggled to sustain attacks.
Patrick Jenkinson scored the first try of the season for Club after charging over from an in-close attack in the 8th minute. Fly half Glyn Hughes then missed a sitter to leave the scores deadlocked at 5-all, but made amends by slotting his first penalty of the day after 15 minutes to give Club a lead it would never relinquish, 8-5.
Although creating plenty of chances, Sandy Bay struggled with its execution, turning over ball regularly and struggling at the lineout. In the 25th minute a defensive error allowed Hughes to saunter through the midfield and produce a looping outlet pass for Ben Axten-Burrett, who was unstoppable with a head of steam as he crossed the line and raised the stakes to 15-5 after Hughes converted.
Metters had a chance to narrow the gap with a penalty before the half, but he missed. Meanwhile, Hughes was impressively on target in the 43rd minute, slotting a 52-metre penalty to push the lead to 18-5, before Metters converted his first penalty of the game in the 47th minute to narrow the deficit to ten again at 8-18. Hughes poked Club ahead again with his second penalty of the quarter pushing the lead to 21-8.
Club collected a third try through forward Sam Pym in the 63rd minute with Hughes’ conversion bringing the score to 28-8, before Hong Kong sevens star Seb Brien produced a solo try from 70 metres out as consolation in the 79th minute. Metters conversion was good, but Sandy Bay fell 28-15.
HKFC coach Jack Wiggins was happy to take the win on a day where victories did not come easily: “I think there was a bit of early season nerves from both teams. We didn’t start the way we wanted in that first five minutes, but we came back and built points through pressure and penalties.
“The main thing is to win, but I’m a little disappointed we didn't get the bonus point. We let them back in it a bit, but overall it’s a positive start. It’s a great launching platform for the season. We’ll take that win and look forward to next week,” he added.
For Sandy Bay coach Brett Wilkinson it was a case of what could have been after the positive start: “Disappointed to come out on the wrong side of that result. We gifted them a lot of points through errors and mistakes and you won’t win many games with the kind of turnovers we made today.
“It’s a bit scrappy early on in the season, but those are things we need to improve on. We couldn’t hang on to the ball. The first try we took well. We were patient. After that, every time we had the ball we turned it over too easily. We have to go back to the training paddock and focus on ourselves and fix it now. That’s all you can do. It’s in our hands,” he added.