Rugby's Leong shines at new National Stadium
Singapore forward Leong scores two tries for Dragons on grand National Stadium stage
Just before the match against the Brumbies, Reiner Leong was star struck.
Playing for the Asia Pacific Dragons on the first day of the inaugural World Club 10s at the new National Stadium yesterday, the Singapore forward couldn't help it, before locking horns with Brumbies fullbacks Jesse Mogg and Robbie Coleman.
"You see these guys on TV playing for the Wallabies, and suddenly you're tackling them on the pitch; it was pretty amazing," said Leong, who is the only local selected to play for the Hong-Kong based Dragons in the two-day tournament.
"I'm not going to lie, at first, I was a little worried about whether I could front up against these guys.
"But as soon as the game got going, all (the fears) got pushed out, I managed to hold my own and I'm really happy about that."
The spanking new stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub opened with a bang yesterday as it played host to its first event in front of 8,918 spectators.
The first round of group-stage action saw eight international club sides showcase their speed and power in fast-paced 10-a-side rugby, headlined by two Super Rugby teams: The Brumbies and The Auckland Blues.
Not only did Leong keep pace with his illustrious opponents, he also wowed the fans with two tries.
The 28-year-old, who came off the bench in all three of his team's group matches, scored his first against the Brumbies.
Following a break down the blind side, Leong received a pass five metres from the line and leaped over for a try.
The Dragons, whose players hail mostly from the Pacific Islands, lost that encounter 22-17, but Leong later scored in the win over Italy's Petraca.
The hometown hero broke free off a scrum, picked up a loose ball and muscled his way over the line, as the Dragons won 19-5.
"To score twice, especially once against the Aussies, was priceless," said Leong, who began training with the Dragons just this past week.
"I was surprised myself at how many minutes I got to play today. Much of that is down to the brotherhood in this team.
"Let's face it, I'm not from the Pacific Islands and I'm not their size, either. But the guys have really made me feel like a part of them."
Dragons coach, former All Blacks star Tana Umaga, praised Leong's athletic ability.
"He earned his minutes out there; he's fit, fast, enthusiastic and made good decisions," said Umaga.
"He'll be an integral part of the team going into (today's) knock-out rounds."
With two wins and a loss, the Dragons finished second in Pool B, and will play the London Welsh, who finished third in Pool A, in today's quarter-finals.
Super Rugby sides Auckland Blues and Brumbies won all three of their games to top Pool A and B, respectively.
Brumbies captain, Coleman, warned that in 10s rugby, nothing can be taken for granted.
He said: "We definitely haven't hit our stripes yet, but we'll get there tomorrow.
"10s rugby is definitely more tiring than 7s, especially when you're playing three games a day.
"Playing hard was the easy part, now the important thing is how well we recover, physically."
Fans happy with new arena (and beer price)
ELECTRIC: Fans pose for pictures with the players at the World Club 10s tournament at the National Stadium. TNP PHOTOS: GAVIN FOO
He's not a rugby fan; not even much of a sports nut, but Garrett Loh simply had to make the trip down to the National Stadium yesterday to see what the new 55,000-seater National Stadium was like.
"I also came here to see how much the beers cost," said the 39-year-old yacht salesman, on the sidelines of the inaugural Rugby World Club 10s yesterday.
He was pleased to discover that a pint cost $10 - slightly less than he expected.
A crowd of 8,918 fans witnessed some frenetic-paced rugby action featuring world class players like Piri Weepu and David Pocock, and top club names Brumbies and the Auckland Blues.
Though the hybrid artificial-natural pitch looked a work-in-progress, sporting more sand than grass, fans were pleased with the new arena, in particular how close the grandstand was to the pitch.
"You're so much closer to the pitch than how it was at the old stadium," Loh said. "I could actually see and hear some of the players spit sand out of their mouths.
"I think once the pitch is 100 per cent complete, this place will be awesome (to host) any sport."
The stadium, which is the centrepiece of the 35-hectare Singapore Sports Hub, features a unique dome which can be closed during bad weather.
The first football match there will be on Aug 16, when Italian champions Juventus take on Singapore Selection in a glamour friendly.
Rugby fan Farhan Zainal, 27, who watched the full set of matches from 11am to 7pm, was pleased there was no trouble finding a parking space.
"Of course, the real test for all the logistics is when (the stadium) is at full-capacity, but, so far, so good," he said.
"I also bought tickets to the Juventus game, and my seats are quite high up. But the atmosphere for that game should be electric.
"This stadium could boast a really great atmosphere."
Today's World 10s schedule
10:04am: QF1 - Auckland Blues v Petraca Rugby
10:31am: QF2 - Asia Pacific Dragons v London Welsh
10:58am: QF3 - Samoa Water Presidents v Cardiff Blues
11:25am: QF4 - Brumbies v Biarritz Olympique
1:33pm: Loser QF1 v Loser QF2
2:00pm: Loser QF3 v QF4
2:27pm: Winner QF1 v QF2
2:54pm: Winner QF3 v QF4
5:03pm: 7th and 8th place
5:30pm: Plate Final (5th and 6th)
5:57pm: 3rd and 4th place
*All matches at the National Stadium
HOW TO GET THERE:
Limited parking lots are available at the Singapore Indoor Stadium (Car Park L), which are operated using the Electronic Parking System.
Fans are advised to take the MRT to Stadium MRT Station (CC6) - the nearest station which exits directly into the Singapore Sports Hub.
For more information visit www.sportshub.com.sg/directions/Pages/getting-here.aspx