Philippines outclass Malaysia for rugby 7s title
Philippines outclass Malaysia for gold, while Singapore settle for bronze
They lamented the intermittent rain which resulted in a slippery pitch on the first day of the South-east Asia (SEA) Games rugby 7s competition on Saturday.
Yesterday, the grey clouds stayed away, the sun shone and the Philippines saved their best for last as they romped to the gold medal in domineering fashion, beating Malaysia 24-7 in the final.
The Philippines completed a remarkable two days of rugby 7s when they won all five round-robin matches and the gold-medal match with a combined score of 177-27.
The Volcanoes, comprised mostly players with Philippine heritage who live overseas, were a class above the rest. With the win, they went one better than the silver medal they won at the 2007 Games in Thailand - the last time rugby was featured at the biennial event.
"We have six guys on this team who played in 2007. They were 20 years old then and they've waited eight years for the gold," said Philippines' director of rugby Matthew Cullen.
"It was a competitive tournament, and credit must go to all the teams. But we saved our best performance for last.
"The conditions were much better today for a fast 7s game and the longer format of 10 minutes per half in the final match suited us better, too."
Malaysia held firm for the first five minutes before Patrice Olivier opened the scoring for the Philippines.
The Volcanoes added another two tries a minute either side of half-time through Justin Covenay and Matthew Saunders, which effectively killed off the Malaysian challenge.
The final five minutes saw Azmi Zulkiflee score a late consolation before Harry Morris put the icing on the cake in the final minute.
"We controlled possession and kept (the Malaysians) tackling and tackling - that wears anyone down," Cullen added.
REDS FINISH THIRD
Singapore, meanwhile, were left to rue their 14-10 round-robin defeat by Thailand yesterday morning, which relegated them to the bronze-medal match.
The hosts, who beat Malaysia on Saturday, were locked in a three-way tie for second place with the Thais and Malaysians. They eventually missed out on try difference, having scored three fewer tries than their Causeway rivals after five games.
The Singapore Reds, who targeted the gold before the Games, exacted sweet revenge on Thailand in the bronze-medal match, trouncing their opponents 21-0.
Samuel Teo, Derek Chan and Ho Yishu were the try scorers for the hosts.
"The first game of the day is always tough," said a disappointed Singapore captain Daniel Marc Chow.
"There were so many stoppages (that) we lost momentum. And the Thais were cunning. They knew how to play us.
"We felt we were the second best team in the tournament (after the Philippines). But the game of 7s can be cruel. At least, we have the bronze. We've worked so hard for this for over a year, we simply couldn't leave here empty-handed."
Both Singapore and the Philippines will now turn their attention towards the Asian Sevens Series beginning in September. For the gold medallists, though, a place at next year's 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is the ultimate goal.
"We have an Olympic qualifying tournament in Hong Kong in November and would love a crack at that," Cullen said.
RUGBY 7S FINAL ROUND SCORES
- MEN'S 5TH-6TH PLACING: Laos 26-10 Cambodia
- MEN'S BRONZE-MEDAL MATCH: Singapore 21-0 Thailand
- MEN'S GOLD-MEDAL MATCH: Philippines 24-7 Malaysia
- WOMEN'S BRONZE-MEDAL MATCH: Philippines 22-0 Malaysia
- WOMEN'S GOLD-MEDAL MATCH: Thailand 39-0 Singapore