Philippines near-certainties for rugby 7s gold
Philippines near-certainties for gold after dominant win over hosts
If the Singapore men's rugby 7s team are to win the coveted South-east Asia (SEA) Games gold medal, they would need the performance of a lifetime at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium today.
For in their way stands a Philippines Goliath.
The Volcanoes - who are mostly made up of players with Philippine heritage who live overseas - were bigger, quicker and stronger than all five other teams during the round-robin stage yesterday.
They beat Thailand 24-10 and Singapore 17-0, before running riot over Cambodia 55-0 in their three matches.
Tipped as pre-tournament favourites, the Philippines dominated Singapore on a slippery Choa Chu Kang pitch, which saw intermittent rain all afternoon.
They spent almost the entire first seven minutes camped in the hosts' half, as Andrew Everingham scored two unconverted tries to give them a 10-0 lead at the break.
The hosts started with a bit more fire in the second half and made a few drives in midfield, but simply couldn't outpace or outmuscle their opponents.
Christopher Hitch scored in the dying seconds to give the Philippines a convincing victory and send a warning to their rivals.
Speaking to The New Paper after the game, the Philippines' director of rugby Matthew Cullen, refused to be drawn into any talk of a gold medal.
"We played two competitive games and this wasn't ideal weather for a running 7s game," he said.
"Singapore pushed us, but we managed to hold onto the ball longer than they did.
"We kept it better, which is important under these conditions."
The round-robin phase concludes today, with the top two teams advancing to the final.
The Philippines lead the standings after three wins from three, while Singapore are second, after beating Cambodia 36-0 and Malaysia 14-5.
Downcast after their defeat, the Singapore team did well to pick themselves us for their clash with Malaysia 90 minutes later.
Malaysia had earlier surprised defending champions Thailand 29-7.
In a tense clash, the hosts emerged 14-5 victors, with tries from Blandon Tan and Samuel Teo.
Captain Daniel Marc Chow attributed the win to the 3,000 partisan fans in attendance, who roared on the hosts against their Causeway rivals.
"The crowd really cheered us on, and that was what brought us across the line," Chow said.
"Hopefully, if we get to the final, they'll lend us the same kind of support."
For the Singapore Reds to finish in the top two, they will have to beat Thailand in their opening game this morning (10.50am).
Should the Thais win, second place will likely go to the team with the best try difference - among Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
Singapore coach Ismail Kadir said the players would relish another crack at the Philippines.
He said: "If we play them again, we'll give them a good fight. It will be a final anyway, so anything can happen."
- Malaysia 40 Laos 0
- Singapore 36 Cambodia 0
- Philippines 24 Thailand 10
- Laos 14 Cambodia 14
- Malaysia 29 Thailand 7
- Philippines 17 Singapore 0
- Thailand 57 Laos 0
- Philippines 55 Cambodia 0
- Singapore 14 Malaysia 5
TODAY'S MATCHES (SELECTED)
- 10.50am: Singapore v Thailand
- 12.30pm: Singapore v Laos
- 1.20pm: Philippines v Malaysia
- 3pm: 5th-6th placing
- 3.50pm: Bronze-medal match
- 4.45pm: Gold-medal match