RI in seventh heaven
Winger Spencer's winning try seals first rugby final appearance in five years
Raffles Institution (RI) reached the boys' B Division rugby final for the first time in five years, after edging out St Andrew's Secondary School 19-15 in the semi-finals yesterday.
It turned out to be a long, hard battle at the Physical, Sports & Outdoor Education Branch Stadium at Evans Road, with little separating both teams.
Just when the match needed a moment of magic, RI winger Spencer Wee produced a winning try about seven minutes from time after making an explosive 80-metre burst down the pitch which left his opponents trailing in his wake.
With the win, the Rafflesians avenged their 2012 final defeat by St Andrew's.
Beaming after the game, the 15-year-old Spencer admitted that he was still in awe after the dramatic encounter.
He said: "It's a good feeling - to be honest, it feels like a dream. We didn't give up though (St Andrew's) were leading at first.
"We remained confident and we weren't afraid."
RI coach Mark Lee was delighted with Spencer's display, although he also praised his substitutes for rising to the occasion.
Raffles Institution, who will play defending champions Anglo- Chinese School (Independent) in the B Division rugby final, last won the championship in 1991.
He said: "All 15 boys have a role to play. But Spencer capitalised on his strength - his speed - and it paid off.
"We defended well, we managed to get a turnover instead of kicking the ball away. He just ran 80 metres and we were rewarded with that amazing try.
"They played for one another. They stuck to what they needed to do in the game and applied pressure where they needed to.
"What was also crucial were the substitutes who came on, they improved the standards instead of maintaining it and I thought that was fantastic."
The Saints started the stronger of the two sides and took an early 5-0 lead.
But they suffered a double blow when two of their players were sent off for offside violations.
Capitalising on their two-man advantage, the boys in green fought back against the Saints, scoring a converted try to end the first half with a 7-5 lead.
What ensued in the second half was a see-saw battle, with both teams struggling to breach each other's defences and resorting to lobbing the ball across the halfway line instead.
Raffles managed to squeeze in a try, but it sparked a furious response from St Andrew's, who retaliated swiftly with two of their own to seize back the advantage.
With the Saints now leading 15-12 and some seven minutes of the game left, the odds were stacked against RI.
Then came Spencer's late intervention to turn the tables on St Andrew's and clinch a hard-fought win.
The Saints were gracious in defeat and paid tribute to the victors for showing more fighting spirit.
"We give credit to Raffles. They wanted it more," said the Saints' teacher-in-charge for rugby Sidney Kumar.
RI will play defending champions Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) in the March 29 final, during which they will attempt to win their first B Division rugby title since 1991.
ACS(I), who beat ACS (Barker) 35-0 in the other semi-final yesterday, had defeated RI 31-8 during the preliminary rounds.
But Lee said that his side are hungry for success.
He said: "In the end, it boils down to hunger versus experience. ACS(I) may be the reigning title-holders, but we'll take our chances. We'll give it our best shot."