The Philippines Volcanoes continued their
march up the Asian rugby ladder today in Manila, beating Sri Lanka
28-18 to propel themselves into the ranks of the top five teams in
Next season, the Volcanoes will become the
eighth team to compete in the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Top 5 since the
inception of the tournament in 2008.
In today’s 3rd/4th place play-off Chinese Taipei
cruised past Singapore 49-31 in the highest scoring match of the
tournament. The result sees Chinese Taipei, promoted to Division I
this season as 2011 Division II champions, stay in Division I.
Singapore becomes the first team with Top 5 experience to be
relegated to the HSBC A5N Division II tournament in the history of
The Philippines Volcanoes got off to a fiery
start in the first half, jumping out to a 23-nil lead before Sri
Lanka replied with their only points of the half, a penalty to
fullback Rizah Mubarak, to enter the changing sheds at 23-3 down.
It was a fitful start for Sri Lanka who seemed unable to get
settled and kicked away the majority of their first half
New Sri Lanka coach Phil Greening continues to
make a positive impact on the team after being with the side for
just five weeks. Greening’s adjustments at half-time saw the lions
of Sri Lanka come roaring back in the second half. Sri Lanka
scored 15 unanswered points through tries to Gayan Rathnayaka and
tireless flanker Sumedha Malawana, closing the gap to just five
points with 13 minutes remaining.
Sri Lanka was looking on pace to record a
memorable comeback and book their return to the Top 5 next season
after having been demoted in 2011, but burly Volcanoes centre
Justin Coveney broke through the defence to score the final try of
the match and put the Philippines instead into next year’s Top 5
at 28-18. The try set off raucous celebrations amongst the
vociferous crowd of 4,000 in attendance for today’s final.
Flyhalf Oliver Saunders led the scoring today
for the Volcanoes with 13 points in the first half from three
penalties and two conversions. Captain Michael Letts added a try
from the fullback position as did Joseph Matthews from the wing.
Matthews was later sin-binned in the second half, helping ease Sri
Lanka’s fight back into the match.
The three sets of brothers in the Volcanoes
squad continued to set the pace for their teammates. The three
sets of siblings, the Saunders, Matthews and Letts clans, had
scored 56 of the team’s 71 points entering today’s match. Oliver
Saunders’s 13 points and the tries from Michael Letts and Joe
Matthews brought the familiar totals to 79 of the 99 points scored
by the Volcanoes this week in Manila.
The Saunders brothers topped the intra-family
scoring stakes this week with a total of 44 points, with Oliver
leading the Volcanoes in individual scoring on 39 points.
The Matthews family contributed 25 points from
five tries (scores) with three to Joe and two to younger brother
and opposite winger Luke. Fifteens captain Michael Letts added his
second try of the tournament to finish on ten points. Michael’s
younger brother Jake plays scrum half for the Volcanoes and also
captained the Volcanoes Sevens team that made its debut at this
year’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
With a junior Saunders (Ben) and Matthews
(Daniel) having already played at Under 20 levels for the
Philippines, and two more sets of brothers having been capped by
the Volcanoes in the past, the call up to the Top 5 in 2013 could
see the Volcanoes playing as many as five sets of brothers in next
year’s Top 5.
Philippines Coach Expo Mejia said, “Today was a
win for the Filipino people. The people came out in numbers and
the guys went out and won for their country. It was a beautiful
thing. This team definitely has the talent to stay in
the Top 5 next season. We need to work on our structures a bit
more and make sure we have all of our players available but we
have started something here in the Philippines and we plan to
build on that.”.
In the 3rd/4th place play-off promoted 2012
Division II champions Chinese Taipei scored an emphatic victory
over Singapore, the second seeds in this year’s Division I
competition, 49-31, to retain their Division I spot and their
chance for qualification for Rugby World Cup 2015.
Singapore’s Rugby World Cup 2015 dream has come
to an early end after today’s loss and their relegation to
Division II in 2013. It is the first time in the five years of the
event that Singapore has been outside of the Top 5 or Division I
and also marks the first time a team with Top 5 experience has
been relegated to Division II.
Chinese Taipei continuously improved throughout
the tournament, having been routed in the opener by Sri Lanka and
then acquitting themselves well versus the Philippines last
Wednesday. Today, their improvement shone through in an emphatic
and memorable win. Chinese Taipei were led by a standout
performance from fullback Chu Chi Weih who accounted for 24 points
with two tries, three penalties and four conversions.
Chinese Taipei coach Edward Bai commented on the
team’s remaining in Division I saying, “Now that we have managed
to retain our position we plan to select a larger squad earlier so
that we can focus on our improvement over the next year. Our goal
will be to compete at Division I level and crack the Top 5 of the
HSBC Asian 5 Nations for the first time.”
Today’s win sees the Philippines become the
eighth team to join the HSBC A5N Top 5 competition in 2013 and
concludes a remarkable rise for the Volcanoes, who began the A5N
in 2008 in Division IV. Statistically, the Volcanoes are the
second most successful Asian team behind Japan, having lost only
once in four years (in last year’s Division I semi-final versus
Now the Volcanoes, who have a number of players
playing professionally in Japan’s Top League, will have the chance
to test their mettle against the most successful team in Asia,
Japan. The HSBC A5N Top 5 is an intense competition that tasks
teams with playing four matches in five weeks, with two matches to
be played at home and two on the road. Japan has not lost a match
in four years of HSBC A5N competition.
The 2012 HSBC A5N Top 5 competition opens on
Friday, 27 April 2012 in Dubai as Hong Kong visit UAE. On Saturday,
28 April 2012, Japan will play its first test match under new coach
Eddie Jones away to Kazakhstan in Almaty.
Promotion to the Top 5 also sees the Philippines
remain in contention for qualification from Asia for Rugby World
Cup 2015 in England.
This week’s Division I championship has
doubled as the first stage in a three-year qualification process
for Asia for the rugby world’s biggest prize. The upcoming HSBC
A5N Division II and Division III tournaments in Kuala Lumpur will
also serve as Rugby World Cup qualifiers with the winners of
Division II and Division III meeting in a one-match play-off to
determine who will be promoted to next season’s Division I.
The final table of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations
Division I Competition sees Philippines on top of the table with
18 points after three straight wins and three bonus points. Sri
Lanka finished on 12 points after two wins and two bonus points.
Chinese Taipei earned its first points of the tournament over
Singapore, finishing on six points with a bonus point for scoring
for our more tries. Singapore finishes with one bonus point from
today’s match for scoring four or more tries.
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