Singapore U19 rugby team set to be relegated
Singapore U-19s go down fighting against Taiwan
Full-blooded tackles, last-ditch lunges, headlocks and even punches featured in a pulsating Asian Rugby Under-19 Championship clash between Singapore and Taiwan at the Yio Chu Kang Stadium yesterday, as the two teams fought tooth and nail to retain their Division One status.
In the end, Ting Hao's 78th-minute try and Wu Chih-sheng's successful conversion helped the visitors clinch a come-from-behind 21-16 victory, all but consigning the hosts to a swift return to Division Two, following Sunday's 27-12 defeat by Sri Lanka.
The only way the home side can stay up is if they can pull off a stunning upset win over powerhouses Hong Kong on Saturday.
In the day's earlier match, Hong Kong defeated Sri Lanka 24-13.
The Singaporeans remained defiant in defeat, though, and team manager Yazid Rosli said: "Obviously it hurts, because we want to stay in this division.
"We wanted to take the lead to control the game, but the opponents' two tries in the first half made it difficult for us.
"We managed to overturn the deficit and take the lead, although we lost out composure towards the end.
"We are the underdogs in this division but we will not go down without a fight.
"If we do go down, we will come back again.
"Hong Kong will be favourites for Saturday's game, but we are here to play three games, not two.
"So we will go out there and give them a good fight."
Singapore mounted a stirring comeback against the Taiwanese, rising from a first-half slumber to overturn a 14-3 deficit and take a 16-14 lead.
Horatio Price got the hosts off to a good start by converting a sixth-minute penalty, but Taiwan hit back with tries by Yeh Wei-te (18th minute) and Chen Chih-chieh (34th minute), who ran 50 metres across the face of the pitch for his score.
Wu converted on both occasions.
Singapore skipper Jeromy Chua barged his way through for a 39th-minute try to start the revival, with Halcyon Price nailing the conversion.
Halcyon then showed great kicking form with successful penalties to propel Singapore into the lead, only to push another effort wide 12 minutes from time to give Taiwan hope.
More drama then ensued, as first Wu missed a penalty, before Tien-Chen-yu crossed the line but was denied a try because he failed to ground the ball.
With just two minutes of regulation time left, Taiwan regained possession off a Singapore kick and Ting Hao cut right through the home defence.
Despite 13 minutes of additional time - which featured a near free-for-all, a yellow card for Singapore's Gareth Chem and a red for Taiwan's Wei Kai - the hosts just could not muster the try they needed to rescue their campaign.
Captain Chua said: "It was a really painful defeat. We wanted to win, and when we took the lead at 16-14, we thought we could.
"Maybe it was due to the pressure of this being a match where we had to win to stay in our division.
"It was like a final out there and both teams showed fury and passion.
"There were scuffles here and there but looking at how the Taiwanese were always angry and kept shouting, I thought we controlled our temperament quite well.
"Against Hong Kong, we want to focus more on putting in our best performance and less about the scoreline. We want to show that there is more to Singapore rugby."
Taiwan coach Su Fu-jen felt the Singapore team could hold their heads high after giving a good account of themselves in their first year in the top division.
He said: "Singapore gave us many problems and have shown that they have made big improvements to their game.
"We are very relieved to have won and are now very close to retaining our Division One status."
"There were scuffles here and there but looking at how the Taiwanese were always angry and kept shouting, I thought we controlled our temperament quite well. "
- Singapore Under-19 skipper Jeromy Chua