From Worst to First : HKU Sandy Bay cap comeback season with Saxo Capital Markets Grand Championshi
[10 March, 2019] Herbert Smith Freehills HKU Sandy Bay claimed a seventh straight win the hard way tonight after surviving a grueling battle with fellow finals debutants Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish, 26-23, to win the Saxo Capital Markets Grand Championship.
The win marks a remarkable comeback season for Sandy Bay, who were worst in the league ahead of Christmas before snapping off a run of six straight bonus point (for scoring four tries or more) wins.
The weather and the occasion conspired to tighten matters considerably tonight in a torrential downpour at King’s Park.
Tries in either half from scrumhalf Liam Slatem and No.8 Luke van der Smith, his the game-winner, coming in the 76th minute to reverse a 23-19 deadlock, helped Sandy Bay win an arm wrestle that saw five lead changes across an action packed 80 minutes.
Hooker Dayne Jans scored his second try of the play-offs for Scottish in the opening half to give his side a 13-10 lead at the break after fullback Sean Taylor notched two penalties and a conversion in the first stanza.
Sandy Bay captain Gair Currie was also solid from the tee, notching a penalty and converting Slatem’s tally to keep Sandy Bay within striking distance. He was again on target in the first minute of the second half with a penalty to level the score for the first time at 13-13 with 39 minutes remaining.
Captain Josh Dowsing replied for Scottish in the 55th minute when the big No.8 rode his forwards right through the middle of the Sandy Bay scrum to find himself in space with 15 metres to the line. Running with a head full of steam all afternoon, Dowsing was unstoppable from that range crashing over to restore the Scottish lead to 20-13 after Taylor’s extras.
Sandy Bay upped the pressure and generated two more scoring chances for Currie, who slotted both penalties in the third quarter to close the gap to 20-19 with 12 minutes on the clock.
Scottish looked to have done enough when Taylor slotted his third penalty in the 72nd minute poking ahead 23-19 and leaving Sandy Bay needing a try on a night where the rain meant handling was at a premium.
With time running out Sandy Bay was awarded a lineout 15-metres from the Scottish line and controlled the ball beautifully in tough conditions. They quickly formed the driving maul, which wheeled left and right before the play came crashing to the turf five metres from the try-line. The Scottish defence were rushing to get behind the ball but the whirling momentum of the play had created gaps and Slatem quickly found the towering van der Smit who dove over untouched for the try - a pleasant contrast, no doubt, for the big man who was immense carrying the ball for the club down the stretch. Jack Metters converted van der Smit’s score to poke Sandy Bay ahead 26-23 but the fireworks were not yet over as Scottish would have the final scoring opportunity with a scrum in Sandy Bay’s half as the hooter sounded.
After detonating the Sand Bay scrum on several occasions this time the defence held forcing Scottish to attack from a static position, which they did, and did, and did again over nearly 30 phases as seconds turned into minutes on the season’s final possession.
Scottish drove the ball to the line crashing to the ground in a heap, when the ball squeezed out on Sandy Bay’s side with Slatem quickly putting it - and the season - into touch.
It was the first Grand Championship in the Club’s first Premiership season as Sandy Bay, although they have reached the same stage in a previous life as Aberdeen.
“It was an awesome result for the boys,” said captain Gair Currie.
“To come from the position we were in, at the bottom of the league last season, and the bottom of the table at Christmas, and then to win seven on the bounce and claim the grand championship in our first year as Sandy Bay, it’s incredible.
“Credit to all of the boys and to Brett [Wilkinson, coach] for backing us and having confidence in us and the backing we have had from the supporters has been amazing.
“There are a couple of boys retiring today and it is a great send-off for them; guys like Gus Cameron and Dylan Rogers have been stalwarts for six or seven years. They have lost the grand championships a few times to Valley, so this win means a lot for them.”
Liam Slatem also commented on the thrilling finale saying, “It was the story of our season really. We started slow and worked our way back into it in the last ten minutes or so, when we switched on and decided to come to the party.”
By the look of things tonight at King’s Park that party could be going on for a long while at Sandy Bay.
Information and Photo Source : HKRU