Singapore recover to overcome the Philippines
After loss to Sri Lanka, Singapore's rugby boys show great character to overcome the Philippines
They were slated to compete in the Asian Rugby Championship's (ARC) Division 2 after being relegated from Division 1 last year.
But Kazakhstan's last-minute withdrawal saw Singapore back in Division 1 and, while they did consider themselves fortunate for gaining automatic promotion, they were also eager to prove that they belong.
And that is exactly what they did by beating the Philippines 28-24 in their Division 1 match at Kuala Lumpur's Royal Selangor Stadium yesterday
The Republic showed great character to bounce back from their heart-breaking opening-day loss against Sri Lanka with a gritty victory over the Filipinos, who had beaten them 20-17 in the same tournament last May.
Singapore captain and hooker, Gaspar Tan, praised his teammates for their performance.
"The team worked really hard, especially during the last 15 minutes and we were also able to execute our game plan better today," said the 27-year-old. "Whenever we were in possession, we just concentrated on gaining more yards."
As the final score suggested, the match was anything but smooth-sailing for Singapore.
They showed early signs of nerves and the Philippines took advantage to lead 5-0 after 16 minutes.
The early try jolted the Singaporeans into action, as they immediately responded with a try from lock Warren Ansell and a penalty by fly-half Michael Patterson to give them a 10-5 lead.
Singapore did well to match their opponents' physicality, but their resistance was breached in the 33rd minute when the Philippines landed another try to take a 12-10 lead into the interval.
It was more of the same in the second half.
Patterson scored his second penalty soon after the restart to put Singapore 13-12 in front, but the Philippines made it 17-13 with their third try in the 48th minute.
The ding-dong battle continued, with Ansell's second penalty putting Singapore 18-17 in the 60th minute and, 11 minutes later, their opponents moving to 24-18 with their fourth try.
Just when it looked like the game was over, Singapore showed great character and resilience to produce a grandstand finish.
They were awarded a penalty try in the 77th minute which Patterson duly converted to give Singapore a 25-24 lead, before adding the icing in stoppage time with another penalty.
Singapore's surprise victory means that they are within their target of remaining in Division 1.
But Tan acknowledged that it will not be easy in their final match against hosts Malaysia, who notched an impressive 42-17 victory over Sri Lanka.
"It's always a big thing when Singapore play Malaysia in any sport," said Tan of the teams' final match on Saturday.
"Both teams will be in good spirits after their wins, but I am sure that they are already focused for their game against us and we have to do likewise.
"We can sleep well tonight, but we will need to refocus starting from tomorrow and put all our efforts into the final game.
"If we can stay in the league or maybe even get a chance to be promoted, that will be a bonus."
We can sleep well tonight, but we will need to refocus starting from tomorrow and put all our efforts into the final game.
- Captain Gaspar Tan, on Singapore’s (above) next match against Malaysia