The Philippine U20s Rugby Union team made a clean sweep of the Asian u20s Division 2 Championships in Vientiane Laos this week. The Philippines played four game of Rugby Union in five days at the 2009 South East Asian Games stadium and were able to defeat India 38–7, Kazakhstan 22–10, Laos 52–0 and Iran 12–8. The last game against Iran was the Championship final and this game proved to be the hardest victory for a tiring Filipino team. Iran had a physical advantage and the heavens opened on the morning of the final which played into the hands of the Iranian team whose game plan revolved around barging forward play backed up by down field kicking. Throughout the tournament the Philippines had successfully used their backline to cut through their opponent's backlines but the weather conditions were not favorable for running rugby and the Philippines struggled to control the ball in the slippery wet conditions.
After succeeding eight penalties the Iranian team finally missed a tackle in defense on their line and the Philippine Backline were able to capitalize on this mistake to score out wide through Ricky Kucia and the Philippines took a five point lead. The Iranian team had definitely improved since last year's final and grew in confidence as the Philippines gave up successive penalties and the Iranian goal kicker converted a penalty to take the halftime score to 5–3.
This week the Philippine National Under 20s team travel to Laos to compete in the Asian U20s Rugby Union Championships. The Philippine team are the current Division 2 champions and beat Iran, Pakistan and Laos in 2009. This year’s tournament will prove a harder battle, with Kazakhstan entering the fray and ensuring the Philippines must win four games in five days to reclaim their Asian u20s Championships title. If the Philippines can repeat their 2009 efforts, then they will move to the Asian u20s Division 1 Championships in 2011.
The Philippines have a heavy schedule and play India on Tuesday, Kazakhstan Wednesday, Laos Friday and Iran Saturday. The Philippine national men’s team recently won the Asian Five Nations Division 2 trophy by defeating India in New Delhi by 34 to 12 after overcoming the fancied Thai team 54 – 33. Then the Philippine National Ladies team won the Asian Ladies Division 2 trophy by defeating India by 17 – 0, Korea 20 – 0, Laos 40 – 0 and Malaysia 20 – 0. The National u20s Team are determined to keep this winning streak intact and aim to make it three from three victories over India in 2010 with a first round win at this tournament.
The Philippine National U20s team has a long tradition of winning the Asian Championships and has only dropped one game since first entering the tournament in 2006. They have defeated countries such as Guam, Brunei, Arabian Gulf, Pakistan, Iran and Laos in a long line of victories. Many members of previous U20s teams are now playing in the Philippine National Men’s team and this year’s team looks to be as strong as previous teams and are focused on taking out the 2010 Championships.
National Forwards Coach Phil Gittus is confident that his charges will step up to the challenge. “We have a wide range of experience within our forwards squad, but the less experienced guys are improving with every session and I feel they will raise their game to the required level. Iran and Kazakhstan are big physical units, but I think our technique and game plan will nullify any size advantage. India will also provide a good test and will enable us to assess the lads under game conditions.”
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