Singapore rugby relegated after loss to Hong Kong
Another loss - this time to HK - sees hosts relegated, but with heads held high
The scoreboard did not make for pleasant reading, but the Republic's Under-19 rugby side walked off the Yio Chu Kang Stadium with their heads held high, and minds filled with lessons.
Singapore were beaten 61-10 by a rampant Hong Kong side in the Asian Rugby U-19 Championship yesterday, a result that saw them finish last in the four-team tourney, behind Taiwan, Sri Lanka and winners, Hong Kong.
While Singapore will drop back into the Asian Division Two that they won last year, Hong Kong will go on to represent Asia at the second-tier World Rugby U-20 Trophy in Zimbabwe in April.
"The boys played with a lot of fighting spirit, and it was awesome to see, regardless of the score," said Singapore head coach Hadizan Jaaman.
"We had one objective in this game, to finish with our best performance - not their best - but ours.
"We started the game in their half, and the last play of the game was also in their half."
Indeed, Singapore started brightly, and looked to match Hong Kong, but lasted only eight minutes before the visitors broke through.
Matthew Worley broke to score, following a missed tackle from Singapore fullback Timothy Pan.
Bronson Kian had the home side's best opportunity in the first half as he intercepted a stray pass in the 26th minute, but was halted by Austin Robertshaw, the only blue shirt left anywhere near the Singapore winger.
Hong Kong's superior technique, and fitness and power eventually shone through in a half that saw them score four converted tries, with a late Halcyon Price penalty putting Singapore on the scoreboard before the break.
Twenty-three minutes into the second half, Jeromy Chua forced the ball over the line after a period of pressure, but that was as good as it got for Singapore.
"There have been ups and downs this whole week, and I am a little bit disappointed that we didn't manage to beat Sri Lanka and Taiwan," said Hadizan, whose side lost all three games.
"We wanted to stay in this division but, overall, I'm satisfied.
"There were several learning points for the players, and that is important for their development."
Half of this squad will still be eligible to play in the Division Two next year, with Hadizan expecting them to be in action in the second half of the 2016.
Hong Kong will have just 14 weeks before facing some of the best rugby sides in the world.
"We're going to Zimbabwe for the U-20 world trophy, and it will be a step up for us, and a great challenge, to face teams like Fiji, Samoa and Uruguay," said Hong Kong coach Peter Drewett, who was impressed by some of the things shown by Hadizan's charges.
"We'll have to start doing our homework.
"In the first half, we took a bit of time to warm up, but we kept at it and eventually got the job done, but Singapore played with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of energy, and with good lines of defence."
"They've got a few good individuals - there are one or two in their forward pack I'd love to have in our side," he added, declining to give names.