Singapore lose both SEA 7s rugby finals as Thai men and women celebrate
Thai men and rampant women bag inaugural SEA 7s title
As the final whistle went in the inaugural South-east Asia (SEA) 7s men's final, Singapore's rugby players all crouched down on the National Stadium pitch, the disappointment clear after a 19-5 defeat to Thailand.
Minutes later, though, Singapore captain Daniel Marc Chow was gracious as he offered a congratulatory handshake to Thailand team manager Atapol Wongratana after speaking to the media.
Praising the Thais, Chow said: "They are a really smart team; they knew when we pressed up fast and hard that we were always going to be weak at the back.
"At the end, they had better teamwork and were the better team today."
The signs were ominous after the hosts' rugby women were put to the sword by their Thai counterparts in an earlier final, suffering a humiliating 42-0 rout in front of thousands of their own fans in the stands.
Inspired by the display of their women's team, the Thai men started the final strong, scoring two converted tries to go into halftime 14-0 up.
The hosts fought back with a try from centre Nicholas Yau in the second half, raising loud roars from the home crowd. But the Thais sealed victory with another try through winger Wutthikorn Kaewkhiao and became the first SEA 7s champions.
Said Chow: "We wanted to win it for the fans, but that's the way rugby is - it's only 14 minutes.
"We tried as much as we could, but when we pressed up further we left gaps behind, and they scored another one in the end … that's something for us to work on."
The Republic's men had finished top of their group during the round robin stage the previous day, and Chow said they were "pumped" for the final.
He added: "Playing at home there's added pressure … it's just a bit of extra weight on your shoulders, and for a young team it's always a bit challenging."
It was double disappointment for Singapore as the women succumbed to the physicality of their Thai opponents, who had beaten them 29-5 in a round robin match 24 hours earlier at the Yio Chu Kang Stadium.
Reflecting on the final, women's co-captain Alvinia Ow Yong rued her side's failure to stick to their game plan.
"There were some lapses and mistakes that Thailand picked up on and finished off," said the 28-year-old.
"We held them for a while, but we lacked any sort of consistency to finish our chances."
Women's coach Wang Shao-Ing agreed, and said the team had to work on strength and conditioning to cope with the physical demands of the game.
"They definitely got burned on the wings and Thailand are pacy, but we didn't concede any tries through the middle, which to me demonstrates the effort from the girls," added Wang.
"As far as the SEA 7s are concerned, we've met our target of getting into the final and beating the other teams on the way, save for Thailand, and we're still on track in terms of the rebuilding phase."
The women finished second to Thailand at last year's SEA Games on home soil, but only two of the squad - Ow Yong and Christabelle Lim - were retained for the SEA 7s.
Said Ow Yong: "It's a great feeling to play in front of a home crowd. There were so many people.
"This will motivate me to work harder and I'm sure it'll be the same for the team."