On another dry, hot day in Vientiane, the Philippine Lady Volcanoes lined up against SE Asian rivals Thailand.
Earlier in the day the Philippine Ambassador to the Lao PDR, Maria Lumen B. Isleta, had hosted a reception for the Philippine girls and, in a lovley touch, the Ambassador greeted all players before the national anthems were played immediately prior to the match at the grand Chaoanouvong Stadium.
The Volcanoes were coming off a bruising match with the larger Chinese team the previous day, whilst the Thai girls had had the relatively easier match against the Lao girls. The first half was very tight and the girls were solid early with many rampaging forays by the forwards with Rozie Morala, Luisa Jordan and the "twins" Reena and Noreen Novero prominent. Nicole"Doughnut" Moore was also thrusting straight ahead under the direction of Cassie Umali at scrum-half. Whilst not wanting to quote any excuses, the referee wasn't having her best game and as our ladies were winning penalty after penalty often the Thai girls were not retiring the necessary ten meters to allow our centres, Manila Santos, Bela Silva to distribute the ball to our wingers. In one unfortunate incident the Assistant Referee spotted a punching incident from one of the Thai girls, but then erred by recommending to the main referee that (just) a penalty be awarded rather than issuing a card. Manila Santos executed a perfect bone-crunching tackle and was incorrectly penalized for a high tackle.
At half-time the score was 10 - 0 to the Thais. Their lead could have been greater but for some desperate defence from Rose dela Cruz, Jessica Filoteo and Tons Gambito. Trixie Pacis lead her troops out for the second half knowing that we had to score first to put pressure on the opposition. Unfortunately, whilst we had good field position and possession the Thais were now playing a simple brand of Sevens type rugby by spinning the ball wide at every opportunity. Aiumi Ono , Ann Layumas and Cassie Umali were tackling like demons but there always seemed to be another Thai girl about to support the ball carrier. In one particular act of courage, tiny AC San Juan brought down a much larger opponent, metres from the line. One needs to remember that ten of the 22 girls who played today had not played 15s rugby before. Well done also to Mae Ann Ubaub, Madille Salinas, Alrlene Trinkler, Blessie delos Santos and Aye Honoras for giving their all, all day.
The injuries were mounting now with Bela, Jessica and Choc Nut leaving leaving the field, and Charmaine Randa who had indicated to the mangement team earlier that she could not play, responded to the call in the second half and was fearless with her tackling. Eventually the Thai girls ran out winners 39 - 0 but the Volcanoes never gave up and played with Pinoy Pride right to the end. Coaches Susan Konstanty, Matt Cullen and Grant Rice will make sure the girls keep their chins up and we are all very confident that we will register our first points tomorrow in our final match against the Lao PDR.
The coaches' awards were issued to Cassie Umali who had a storming match, particularly in defence, Charmaine Ranada for fighting her way through the pain barrier and the "biggest hit" went to Rozie Morala, which could have been awarded for a number of solid tackles she made duirng the day.
The girls are learning about the toughness of rugby and face tomorrow's game without Rose Lanticse (injured against China, but insisted upon staying here with the team). Bela Silva and Jessica Filoteo. Hopefully in tomorrow's report we can talk about due reward for an excellent attitude with a win against the Lao PDR.
Many thanks to Grace Penon and Physio Paula who have been working overtime keeping the girls ready to go.
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