The Asian Rugby Junior Championships kicked off at Rizal Memorial Stadium with the Philippine National u20s Team playing Korea and Chinese Taipei playing Malaysia. This was the first round of the two day event with the winning teams competing on Saturday for the Championship rights. This is the first time that the Philippine Rugby Football Union has held an International underage series at the recently renovated Rizal Stadium. The ground and facility were being previewed by the IRB and ARFU delegates in preparation for the Philippines’ hosting the Asian 5 Nations Division 1 tournament next April. The tournament organizers were very pleased with the way the stadium adjusted to accommodate the new sport of Rugby Union and a small crowd gathered to watch the first round games.
The Philippines were ranked 4th after winning Division 3 in Laos in 2010 and came up against a very intimidating and seasoned Korean team who had been demoted from Div 1 in 2010. The Koreans capitalized on an early mistake by the Philippines and struck the first blow with a penalty kick to take a 3 – 0 lead. The Philippines played with spirit but unfortunately their execution let them down and they failed to exit their defensive zone which eventually allowed Korea to score out wide to take a 8 – 0 lead.
The Philippines were able to find some momentum from the restart of play and the Koreans were penalized for an off side infringement that the Philippines were able to kick a penalty to make the score 8 – 3. It was a tight battle and the Philippines started to play some positive rugby and through some aggressive defense from Captain Ben Saunders, the Philippines were able to turn over the ball to force another mistake by the Koreans and Danny Matthews kicked the penalty to bring the Philippines back in the game at 8 – 6. The match hung in the balance and it seemed like it might be a kicking game when Korea kicked their second penalty to open the lead to 11 – 8.
The Korean team then played the ball wide and scored a runaway try down the sideline and converted another penalty after the tiring Philippine were penalized for off side infringements. The halftime score was Korea 21 Philippines 6.
The second semi final saw Chinese Taipei win a tight battle against Malaysia by 12 – 9. The Chinese Taipei team scored two tries and one conversion whilst Malaysia relied solely on the accurate kicking of their flyhalf who kicked two field goals and a penalty. He missed a 51m attempt to draw the game and the Chinese Taipei team were able to hang on for a gritty win to meet Korea in the final this Saturday game. This leaves Malaysia to play the Philippines in what should make for some quality Rugby Union at Rizal Stadium this weekend.
Asian Rugby Junior Championship Schedule:
Saturday, 17 December 2011
3pm: Philippines vs. Malaysia
5pm: Korea vs. Chinese Taipei
Rizal Memorial Stadium, M. Adriatico St., Malate Manila.
Admission is free
Photos by: Mark Cristino
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