Malaysia, after a nervous first half riddled with errors and dropped balls came to life in the second half in front of their vociferous fans putting Sri Lanka to the sword as they claimed the Asia Rugby Championship Division I title in Ipoh, Malaysia, 22 – 9. And with it, a spot in next year’s top flight as they seek the next part of their journey towards RWC Qualification.
In a physical first half where both sides tried unsuccessfully to gain the upper momentum, the Tuskers went into the half time break with a 6 – 5 lead over the hosts thanks to two successful penalty kicks by Thilina following the early try to Malaysia’s Jone Nasolo.
And in what seemed to be destined for a low scoring affair as Thilina converted his third penaly kick for a 9 – 5 lead with 20 minutes to go, an end to end display of free-flowing rugby, offloads and interchanges between backs and forwards resulted in in Malaysia’s inside centre, Gavidi scoring near the posts in the 63rd minute, awakening the hosts and the crowd. And two minutes later, wing Wong Wye Wye latched on to a cross-fied kick from captain Rosli before beating a couple of players and score in quick succession, all but putting an end to the dreams of the visitors.
The Tuskers knew they needed to attack from all areas, but with a depleted squad ravaged with injuries and suspensions, the fatigue began to set in and mistakes ensued as Malaysia looked to dominate possession and territory as the clock ran down to victory.
Malaysia’s head coach Lee Nyuk Fah was in an ecstatic mood post-game, commenting, “I feel great retaining the title and the first Malaysia team to go to the premier division of Asia Rugby in 2018 and subsequently having an opportunity to qualify for the Rugby World Cup. I knew the boys would rise to the equation. In the first half, we committed too many errors and we gave away too many penalties and at one stage, we had two players in the sin bin, so at half time we spoke about being composed and they delivered to our game plan in the second half”.
Malaysia will join Hong Kong and South Korea in the Asia Rugby Championship 2018 where the winner will move on the playoff stage of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Qualification.
And in the first game of the final day of play, the Philippines Volcanoes have finished third in the Asia Rugby Championship today in Ipoh, Malaysia, edging the UAE, 34 – 26.
As both teams sought their first win of the Championship, it was the brace of tries from the Philippines’ Justin Coveney and Patrice Olivier in the end that proved the difference in a match whereby the lead changed times multiple times.
Coveney scored for his first try after 28 secs giving the Volcanoes the confidence boost that his side needed. But the lead was short lived as UAE used their physical forwards and the pace of Fourie as he probed for gaps giving his side front foot ball and Talbot converted with UAE’s first try.
Further tries to Gordon and Olivier and a solitary penalty to Stephenson for UAE saw the Volcanoes take a 15 – 10 half time lead.
And in the second half, it was a similar battle with Stephenson for UAE converting the pressure that UAE were able to enforce through successful penalty kicks that kept the scoreboard ticking over versus the second half tries to Coveney and Olivier and a final drop kick by Holgate that edged the result for the Volcanoes.
David Johnston, head coach of Philippines reiterated his team’s effort saying, “It was hard work, we had a lot of work to do and we used the whole bench to get it done and we stuck to our scrummage policy throughout – it has been the key for ourselves. There are parts of our game that are inefficient in the sense that we do really well, but we can’t keep the structures going for the entire 80 minutes. But overall, we really dug deep through injuries and adversity and they found a way and I give our guys credit for that.”
Philippines finished third and UAE finished 4th, but both will return again next year in Division I hoping for greater fortune.