The entertaining match was in the balance throughout, with the lead changing hands in both halves, good defensive work from Causeway Bay held off some early Tigers probing, and laid the groundwork for a multi-phase attack that ended with a try for winger Hau Sin Man on 20 minutes.
The Tigers hit back quickly with a try of their own, and then a second, as Winnie Siu picked the ball out of a ruck and carried it three-quarters of the length of the pitch, before touching down beneath the posts. The simple conversion gave Tigers a 12-5 lead.
Phoenix were not to be kept down, and as the first half drew to a close, offered up a near repeat of their first effort, moving the ball quickly out to Hau Sin Man on the right wing who outpaced the Tigers defence and narrow the deficit to 10-12 at half-time.
The second half was equally competitive, but remained scoreless until, with six minutes remaining on the clock, Causeway Bay’s determination, and a lack of experience from several Tigers replacements called up from National League 1, led to a third try for Hau Sin Man, as the Pheonix snatched a 15-12 win.
Causeway Bay’s coach, Ocean Chow, was understandably pleased with the result, but also with his players’ mental game: “We deserved to win based on the players’ mindset,’ he said.
“This was a vital game and gives us a strong position to secure a better route against the upper teams in the Grand Championships. We focused on treating this game like a knockout match and the players believed we could do it. Mentally, this win is going to be very important going into the GCs.
“In the last round, we didn’t score on Tigers [0-32, 15 Oct]. This time, the players didn’t lose focus by complaining to the referee about this and that. That kept the game rolling, which was in our favour.”
That focus allowed the team to play up to their potential, Chow believes. “Everyone was ready. We made a lot of tackles, and we made them count. Our back row kept up the pressure – keeping it tight and forcing penalties and then when we won the ball we moved it quickly along the line and into attack. That was our plan and we executed it.”
Losing coach Liu Kwok Leung put the loss down to the disruption to the line-up, (ten of his first team regulars were on national duty either at the Sevens training camp in New Zealand, or with the U19s in Singapore), as well as nerves among some of the younger players brought up from National League One as replacements.
“We made mistakes on the ball – getting the simple stuff wrong, which you can’t do at this level. In the end, we gave up the whole game,” Liu said. “We had too many new players, and they didn’t integrate properly. In the forwards especially, there was a lack of cohesion. We lost quite a few set pieces, and in the rucks, they often turned us around with a counter-ruck.
“We gave them too much time. Right at the end, our girls dropped their concentration a notch, and made mistakes on the wing.”
On the bright side of a tough day Liu said he found some gold in his new recruits: “A few of the players coming up did well. I was especially impressed by Sarah Wong Ka Ying, who did very well and will likely feature in the first team even when the international players are back.
For all the weekends scores and the tables see here.
Additional reporting and photo: HK Rugby