Great comeback win
Strong debuts for Davey, Love, Irving and Mika
Despite a tumultuous build-up for HKCC, with the resignation coach Deacon Manu mid-week, the Cricketers rebounded well to chalk up an opening win under new coach Kevin West as they held off a strong challenge from Scottish 30-23.
“We’re delighted with the result", said West. “We’ve had a pretty tough week with what’s been happening and we’ve only had one warm up game, so we were struggling to get our systems right but we fronted up today. Our defence was solid as was our work at the breakdown and I thought we showed good intent on attack. With the week as it was, you have to be happy with that result."
West credited the impact of an influx of new players in Aberdeen, particularly fullback and specialist goal-kicker James Love from Ealing Trailfinders in the UK.
“All of the new players have bought into what we are doing really, really well. We’re delighted with everything we’ve got from them. James was spectacular and [No.8] Ben Davey, who was here two years ago with Valley, is a fantastic addition and ran himself to a standstill” West added.
Love collected 15 points from the boot with three penalties and three conversions. His kicking counterpart at Tigers, flyhalf Gregor McNeish, was also on song, boosting his side’s efforts with three penalties and two conversions.
Scottish leapt out to a 13-0 lead in the first half after McNeish bookended a try from flanker Ewan Miller with two penalties and a conversion. But HKCC replied with 20 unanswered points en route to a 20-13 lead at the break after tries from flanker Adrian Griffiths and wing Brad Raper with Love adding the conversions and two penalties. Both of the Cricketers tries were setup by great work from Liam Slatem, making a superb return after a season on the sidelines through injury.
McNeish clawed back three of those points with a penalty to start the second half but Scottish conceded a penalty try handing the advantage back to the Southsiders 27-16. Love added his fourth goal to extend the lead to 30-16. In the dying seconds, Miller picked up is second try of the afternoon to close the gap to 30-23.
Scottish coach Craig Hammond was left ruing what might have been. “It’s pretty frustrating. We did some good things, we started well and were 13-0 nil up but then we sat back a little bit and let them back in the game.
“You’ve got to give it to HKCC, they’re a good team and their 15 [Love] kicked some big goals and put us under pressure. A simple penalty here or there and we were really under the pump. Overall it’s a reasonable start, but we’re here to win footy games and to come away losing by seven in our first match is pretty frustrating,” Hammond concluded. Scottish were the only club in today’s Premiership to claim a bonus point for a loss within seven points.
Two other Premiership debutants for HKCC who made big impacts were Fai Mika, who's scrummaging and tireless work in the loose was telling. Kariym Irving, was also impressive with ball in hand with a number of incisive runs and solid tackles in defence.
All in all, as great start to the League campaign, next week sees a 4.30pm kick off at King's Park versus Kowloon.