The Philippine National Men's 15s team went down to the highly-ranked Korea squad by 34 points to 20. In a game that hung in the balance until the last play of the day, the Philippine Volcanoes were unlucky not to equalize the scores at 27 all in the final few minutes. Their missed chance was capitalized on by the Koreans who scored on the last play of the game when the Philippines attempted to attack from their own five meter line a desperate bid to score the equalizing try. The Philippines can look back on a game of lost opportunity with only themselves to blame after committing 27 unforced errors, compared to Korea's ten errors. As a consequence, the Volcanoes were forced to defend for up to 70% of the game and this took its toll, while the Korean team stuck to basic patterns that worked well in the wet conditions.
The first two tries of the game came directly after the big Korean forward pack were able to win two scrums against the head and turned defence into offence to take an early lead of 10 - 0. The Philippines had their opportunities but on the first four occasions of entering the Korean half, the Philippines made simple mistakes that allowed the Koreans to diffuse any pressure. The Koreans then won a third scrum against the feed and the Philippines gave up a professional foul penalty in front of the posts by diving into a ruck to stop a certain try. This penalty was converted and Koreans had stamped their authority on the game up front with their forward pack and led 15 - 0. The Philippines then started to play attacking rugby and it was Oli Saunders who placed a perfectly weighted grubber kick through for center combination Justin Coveney and Gareth Holgate, as they both ran through behind the Korean defensive line to swoop on the loose ball. The ball bounced awkwardly and the Korean defence was able to counter attack and ran 60m to score an easy try and take a convincing 22 - 3 lead.
As the game wore on, the bigger Korean team started to tire and this is when the Philippines started to rally. It was the Philippines hooker Phil Abraham who ignited the go forward when he picked up a loose ball at the base of the ruck and split the Korean defence up the middle of the field and ran 30 meters to finally be pulled down on the Korean 22m line. It was the first time that the Philippines had entered the Korean half and consequently the Koreans gave up a penalty for holding the ball in a ruck. Oli Saunders was able to convert the Penalty from 30m out in front of the posts and register the first points for the Philippines. The successful penalty kick obviously inspired the Philippines and it was not long before Team Captain, Michael Letts was able to gain some valuable territory with a well waited kick and the Koreans were under pressure in their own 22 zone. Nick Pineda flew high to take the ball in the lineout and Oli Saunders ran to the line and found debutant Joven Clake on his outside shoulder and fed him a well-timed pass to allow Joven to break through two tackles and score the Philippines’ first try. This late try allowed the Philippines to go into the halftime break with some confidence and a respectable score of 22 - 8.
The Philippines had managed to stay within striking distance of the Korean team and came out in a positive mood to attack in the second half. The Philippines Vice Captain Chris Hitch struck the first blow when he gathered a loose ball at the back of a ruck and broke through three tackles to run 20 meters before being dragged down, he popped to the ball to Nick Pineda who then attracted another three defenders, Jake Letts was the man on the spot to shoot a quick fire pass out to his brother, Michael Letts who dummied on his outside and split the defence to score the opening try for the second half and reduce the score to 22 - 13.
From this point on the Koreans implemented a strategic kicking game that pinned the Philippines in their own quarter. As a result the Philippines struggled to exit their defensive zone and it was the Koreans who attacked for ten minutes and finally scored on the wing to take a 27 - 13 lead. The Philippines had displayed a remarkable defensive effort and the Koreans once again began to tire late in the second half. Gareth Holgate who had defended magnificently throughout the game at outside center then created a turnover and picked up a dropped ball to run 60 m and link up with his winger Matt Saunders who scored the try of the game under the posts. This was converted his brother Oli and with 5 minutes left in the game the Koreans had a slender lead of 27 - 20.
In a last ditch effort, the Philippines threw caution to wind and threw the ball to the first half try scoring speedster Joven Clarke, Joven stepped around his opposite winger and sped down the touchline, as the Korean fullback came to tackle him, Joven placed a chip kick that would have opened the doors for the Philippine attack, the Korean fullback was just able to juggle the kick with his finger tips and took the intercept to run away and secure victory for the Koreans. The final score was 34 - 20 to Korea and they can thank their lucky stars that the Philippines had not drawn level as they had run out of legs and were struggling in the last ten minutes of the game.
It was a remarkable effort for a Philippine National team who do not even have a world ranking to push the 33rd ranked team in the world to such a close scoreline. Philippines coach Expo Mejia was disappointed with the Philippines execution and decision making and is confident that the Philippines will win the A5N Div 1 Tournament in the next twelve months. The Philippines must now concentrate on winning their game against Malaysia this Saturday and ensure they remain in this Division. Philippines Manager Matt Cullen is confident that the Philippines will regroup from the loss against Korea and come out to play a strong and disciplined game against Malaysia this Saturday.
Best forwards for the Philippines were Nick Pineda and Chris Hitch and best backs were Joven Clarke and Gareth Holgate.
Joven Clarke (1)
Michael Letts (1)
Oliver Saunders (1)
Oliver Saunders (1)
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