Mumbai Sevens Tournament Report
The Volcanoes have fond memories of their last trip to India when they took the Division 2 Asian 5 Nations crown against India, China and Thailand back in 2010, one of their conquests in their climb to the A5N Premier Division of 15s rugby. They arrived in Mumbai to partciaipate in the Mumbai Sevens at the Bombay Gymkhana - perhaps best described as Mumbai's version of the Manila Polo Club
On Saturday, October 13, the Volcanoes started sharply against a Singapore team who were targetting this match to try to qualify for the Cup section of the competition. After conceding an early try the Volcanoes regained their composure and defensive structure to end with a comfortable victory, 33 - 12. Ryan Clarke, now used to the internatonal stage after his experience in Shanghai, crossed twice and Ken Stern, Tim Bweheni and Andrew Wolff also scored tries. This was Bweheni's debut for the Volcanoes and his long wait (delayed by a dislocated shoulder) confirmed the selectors' faith that he was up to playing at this level.
The Volcanoes second match was always going to be a stroll in the park against the fledgling Afghanistan team, who are still learning the ropes of international rugby. The Philippines had eight different try-scorers and Paulo Jordan notched up his first international try as the scoreline of 50 - 0 indicated how clinical the boys were. This game allowed the boys to practice their attacking moves and all 12 players had good game time.
Then came the challenge of Japan. Favoured to feature in this tournament's final, having missed Shanghai due to safety concerns, Japan were in shock at the structure and ferocity of the Volcanoes' defence and Ryan Clarke stepped (literally) onto this stage with some wonderful rugby setting up both tries (to Wolff and Stern) for the Philippines. With just two minutes to go the scores were locked at 12 - 12 and the ground was abuzz that a huge upset was on the cards. A couple of errors right at the death meant Japan went on to win 22 - 12, but the Philippine team received rapturous applause from the other teams for pushing the giant of Asian Rugby so close.
The tournament did eventually see a big upset on the Saturday when Sri Lanka and Malaysia both finished ahead of China in their group, which eventually relegated China to 9th place in the tournament.
Having finished second in their group the Philippines woke on Sunday morning knowing that the young and hugely improved Chinese Taipei team would be a significant hurdle. It was another scorcher in Mumbai with temperatures in the mid-30s. The Volcanoes probably played their worst match here and conceded too many penalties, and although they went down 14 - 17 the boys knew they had not played their best, and had narrowly missed out on a top four finish which was Coach Mejia's tournament objective for the team. They were not helped when playmaker Clarke hobbled from the field at half-time with an ankle injury.
The Ben Gollings-coached Sri Lanka team had taken Hong Kong to within one score of knocking the tournament favourites out of the Cup competiton in their quarter final. The Philippines started brilliantly however and went out to an early lead which should have meant a 21 - 7 lead at half-time but was in fact 14 - 14 with a length of the field effort from the Lankans after we had controlled territory and possession. The extreme pace of the Sri Lankan wingers was too much in the second half and in one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament Sri Lanka won 31 - 19.
The seedings which will be relevant for the World Cup qualifier in Singapore on November 2/3, 2012 were still extremely tight and the Volcanoes were not going to go through Sunday without a win. In a polished all-round performance, highlighted by a fantastic captain's try by Harry Morris, the Philippines were never really in danger and beat the Koreans 24 - 14.
If one had predicted that the Philippines would finish ahead of both Korea and China in Mumbai, one would have expected a higher finish than seventh. But that seventh and sixth and seventh in Borneo and Shanghai means that the Philippines will take a seventh ranking into the Singapore tournament. The draw should be made soon and with the prospect of significant reinforcements in the form of players performing professionally in Japan, the Philippines hopes to come from the middle of the pack and battle above our weight in Singapore. The dream of a Sevens World Cup berth in Russia in June, 2013 is still alive.
Scoring details and team lists are outlined below:
Tim Bweheni (the starting seven for all matches)
Coach: Expo Mejia
Physio: Rico Barin
As usual, players came from far and wide with Mark Chatting and Joven Masalunga flying in from London and Ken Stern flying in from Sydney. Ken, in particular is to be commended for arriving late on the Friday evening and yet was able to start all six matches.
33 - 12, v Singapore
Tries: Clarke 2, Stern, Bheweni, Wolff
Cons: Pena 4.
50 - 0, v Afghanistan
Tries: Clarke 2, Stern, Bheweni, Chatting, Pena, Morris, Jordan
Cons Pena 3, Stern, Bheweni.
12 - 22, v Japan
Tries: Stern, Wolff
14 - 17 v Chinese Taipei
Tries: Morris, Wolff
Cons: Pena, Morris.
19 - 31 v Sri Lanka
Tries: Clarke, Bheweni, Wolff
Cons: Pena 2.
24 - 14 v Korea
Tries: Bheweni 2, Morris, Wolff
Cons: Bheweni, Pena.
Total Points (152 For, 96 Against):
Asian Sevens Series Rankings after Mumbai 7s
*Japan received an average of points from its performances in Borneo (16 pts) and Mumbai (15 pts) to account for its Shanghai Sevens final standings.
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