Ice-cool teenager keeps nerve and kicks Club to victory

Alvin Sallay

Baby-faced assassin Ben Kende killed off Tradition Valley’s hopes of a double by knocking over two magnificent late penalties to give CBRE Hong Kong Football Club a nail-biting 16-14 victory in the First Division Grand Championship final at King’s Park last night.

The 17-year-old Kende, showing all the maturity of a grizzled veteran, took on the responsibility of two huge pressure kicks after Valley had clawed into the lead – 14-10 – for the first time in the match from a superb try by scrumhalf Tim Alexander.

The Island School student, who had added the extra points to a try from hooker Tom Bolland in the first half and also knocked over a penalty early in the second half, was on target to narrow the lead to just a point.

Captain Dan Watson then backed his fullback to go for a much harder penalty, just outside the 10-metre mark, when Valley’s backline were spotted to be in front of an up-and-under from fly half Ben Rimene.

‘They were both pressure kicks and Ben was superb. When he stood outside the 10-metre line and said he was going to take it, I backed him,’ said a delighted Watson as he sipped champagne from the silverware.

Kende said: ‘I told myself head down, and straight through just like the other one I had just kicked. I went through my routine, and it was unbelievable when I saw it go through.’

But the drama didn’t end there. With the game well into injury time, Valley had their chance to win when Football Club were twice penalised for infringements at the breakdown.

It was, however, a tale of two Bens – the radar of Valley’s left-footed Rimene was malfunctioning. He pushed his first kick wide and then the second, a monster 45-metre effort hit the left upright. Rimene also fluffed two other kicks in the last quarter, failing to goal Alexander’s try and another penalty.

Valley coach Brian Higgins said: ‘In a game like a final, every kick is a pressure kick. But we lost not because Ben’s kicks missed. We shouldn’t have had to worry about the kicks. We saw a good Club side today.’

Football Club came out firing with their forwards to the fore and laid siege to Valley’s try line. It wasn’t long before it paid dividends when a multi-phase move ended in fly half James Kibble passing inside to hooker Bolland, who sliced through to score.

Club led 10-6 at the break, and the gap was whittled to 10-9 before Alexander gave Valley the lead for the first time when he scored from a sniping run. But for the first time this season, Valley failed to finish it off.

Watson said: ‘The last couple of games we let them come at us. They set the pace and we allowed them free minutes. They lived on our scraps and we shut them out.’