Sri Lanka and the Philippines set up a showdown
for promotion to the HSBC Asian 5 Nations (HSBC A5N) Top 5
competition in 2013 after winning their Round II matches at the
HSBC A5N Division I yesterday (Wednesday, 18 April 2012) at Rizal
Memorial Stadium in Manila.
Tournament top seeds Sri Lanka and the
Philippines (third seeds) will battle for promotion to next
season’s Top 5 on Saturday (21 April at 17:00) while Singapore and
Chinese Taipei will fight to avoid relegation to Division II on
Victory was a family affair for
the Philippines Volcanoes as they started three sets of brothers
in yesterday’s win. Winger Luke Matthews scored on both of his
first two touches of the ball to help pull the Philippines away
from a spirited challenge from fourth seeds Chinese Taipei this
Matthews’ brace of tries equalled that
scored by his brother Joe, (who also started at wing today for the
Philippines), in the team’s
37-20 victory over Singapore in Round
1 last Sunday (15 April). Matthews’ credited his forwards for some
stirring defence early on that helped put the Philippines in the
position to break through their last remaining barrier to reaching
the promotion match, saying, “It felt amazing to
score twice today but we have to hand it to our forwards whose
defence was outstanding and set a great platform for the
The Philippines started three sets of
brothers against Chinese Taipei: 15s captain Michael Letts and his
brother and Philippines Sevens captain Jake, flyhalf and centre
Oliver and Matthew Saunders, and the Matthews brothers. A third
Matthews family member, younger brother Daniel, has already
represented Philippines at Under 20 level.
asked if there was a sibling try stakes going at home, a modest
Luke Matthews replied, “I’m so proud of Joe. He played great on
Sunday and had another great game tonight. It really is incredible
to be able to run out on to the pitch alongside him and represent
both our country and our family.”
Sri Lanka escaped
a tense first half encounter with Singapore to
emerge victorious 35-10. The score at the half was 14-10 before
Sri Lanka scored three tries in the second stanza while shutting
out Singapore to close out the match convincingly.
Winger Sandun Herath scored his own brace of tries against
Singapore, proving that the Sri Lankans also have plenty of pace out wide, setting the stage for what should be some great running
rugby in the final.
Not to be outdone, the Sri
Lankans feature their own unique family connection as the captain
Yoshitha Rajapaksa and hooker Namal Rajapaksa are the sons of the
country’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa.
been strong performers to date, with Namal returning from injury
in match one to support the team through the grueling task of
playing thrice in seven days.
Yoshitha, a standout for his Navy club and a veteran of Sri
Lanka’s 2011 Top 5 campaign, has provided a steady hand at the
tiller for this young and hungry group of players.
Former England hooker Phil Greening extended his unbeaten streak
on his debut tournament as Sri Lankan coach with the team’s second
win today. Greening commented on the win saying, “I’m proud of the
guys, especially the way they fronted up today. We knew how
Singapore would play and we put a plan in place to nullify that
effort and the guys responded well. But we’ve won nothing so far
and I will remind the team of that.”
Philippines in my eyes are the top team so far,” added Greening.
“They are the team to beat there is not doubt about that. There
are quite a few players in the Philippines team playing
professionally now in Japan or at high level in Australia while seven out of our 22 players earned new caps either today or last
Sunday. We have five 19 year olds in the squad also, so I am very
pleased with the way our players have taken to the international
Commenting on the result versus Chinese
Taipei, Philippines Coach Expo Mejia said, “That was a tough match
and it was just what we needed. They really stretched us and we
will be better for it. They were desperate and they really picked
it up and tested our defensive structures, which was great for us.
“It will be a very tough match against Sri Lanka
on Saturday but it is fitting that it will be the final. It comes
down to who recovers best and who steps up most. Both teams are
capable of winning and Sri Lanka isn’t quite surprising us. They
have a good structure and are very solid in what they do. They
have pace out wide and strong forwards. They have it all really,
so we are going to have to peak on Saturday to win.
“But our guys are really keen to perform for our fans. We have
been dying to have a home final and show Filipinos what we have
got and we finally have that chance. The boys are up for it.”
The results from the
opening matches on Sunday saw Sri
Lanka and the Philippines both move up in the International Rugby Board world rankings. Sri Lanka’s 36-8 victory over Chinese Taipei
took them three places up the table to 43rd, shunting Malta, Uganda and Ivory Coast down one spot. Their comprehensive win at
Manila’s Rizal National Stadium puts them on 48.02 ranking points,
and continued success in the Asian tournament would nudge them
further up the ladder.
Perhaps the most noteworthy
result of the weekend was when the Philippines capitalised on home
advantage to surprise Singapore in the first match between the two
Going into last Sunday’s
match the Singaporeans were ranked world number 52 and the
Philippines 20 places lower, but a 37-20 victory elevated the
hosts 10 places in the rankings to number 62 in the world.
Wednesday’s results leave the Volcanoes and Sri Lanka tied at
the top of the standings with twelve points each as both picked up
a second bonus point. Singapore and Chinese Taipei have yet to
post points but that will be rectified in a tight competition next Saturday to see who retains their Division I spot.
The matches will be televised LIVE on ABS-CBN Studio 23
and LIVE on ESPN Star
Sports across 29 countries in Asia as well as on a live/delayed
basis to Europe, Australia and New Zealand and North America.
See other recent news regarding: