Philippine National Women's Team Defeat Thailand in their first ever International Game of 15s Rugby Union
Back Row (L-R) Matt Cullen (Coach), Dyesebel Diaz, Julie Wilson, Tonette Gambito, Manila Santos, Jennalyn Bacud, Celia Gittus (Team Manager), Rose Lanticse, Aiumi Ono, Isabela Silva Front Row (L-R) Cassie Umali, Nikki Lira, Beekay de los Santos, Alana Padilla, Arlene Trinkler, Ann Kristine Layumas, Jennifer Pondoc and Donna Dimayuga
The Philippines National Women’s team travelled to Vientiane Laos to play in the Asian Women’s Tri Series that included Thailand, Laos and the Philippines. In the last two years Women’s 7s Rugby has become a popular sport worldwide and the Asian Rugby Football Union invited Women’s 15s teams to participate in a tournament in Laos from Oct 14 – 18 to help promote and develop the traditional form of the sport here in Asia.
The Philippines had achieved unexpected success at the Asian Women’s 7s tournament, where they surprised everyone on debut by defeating Korea, Malaysia, India and Laos to win the Asian Women’s Bowl Trophy in their first International Tournament.This incredible start to Women’s Rugby has since flowed onto the 15s game here in the Philippines and the two Manila based ladies play teams play in the PRFU 7s league with the 8 men’s clubs. There are also two ladies teams in Cebu and from these four women’s teams a squad of 17 players made themselves available to represent the Philippines at the tri series in Laos and all volunteered to pay for their own fares which included the arduous connecting trip of flights to Bangkok and then a 12 hour train ride to Vientiane to play against Thailand and Laos. The Filipinas who all live here in the Philippines took up the challenge and all 17 players found a way to make the plane, train and automobile trip to play in Laos.
Once all the National Team players had assembled in Laos it was up to National Team Coach Matt Cullen and Team Manger Celia Gittus to focus the girls on playing Rugby Union after the long overnight train ride from Bangkok. The training camp started with ARFU and IRB qualified coaches instructing the players in the finer skills of playing 15s Rugby Union. The Philippine team looked small compared to the larger women from Thailand and all agreed that Thailand would be favorites entering into the three way competition, with the Laos team being the smallest of the three competing Nations.
In their first game, the Philippines drew a very physically imposing Thailand team and it was agreed that the game plan was to play the game in Thailand’s half of the field by utilizing a tactical kicking game and turning their bigger opponents around. The Philippines were led by one of the smallest players on the field and as Captain Alana Padilla led from the front by continually tackling the Thailand opponents and was well supported by Rose Lanticse, Manila Santos and Dyesebel Diaz who all confronted their larger opponent’s with passionate aggression. After some tactical kicks by the Philippines Fly Half Bela Silva the Philippines had Thailand caught in their own defensive zone and the Philippines made several attacking raids through their outside speedsters Nikki Lira and Auimi Ono, only to be bought down meters short of the try line by some tenacious Thai defense.
It was not until the second half of the game that the Filipinas started to exploit their fitness advantage and started to run the ball through the outside corridors and not straight up the middle through the strong Thai forwards defense, this proved the turning point of the game when Philippines winger Ann Layumas was able to receive a good final pass from a well executed backline move that allowed her to scoot away down the touchline and score a great wingers try in the corner to take the lead by 5 points to 0.
The Philippines managed to maintain their attack and to the Thais credit they continued to defend their line until the final whistle blew and the tight game remained at the score of Philippines 5 defeating Thailand 0.
This was the first time all of the Filipinas had played in a 15s rugby game and bruises and scars certainly showed the women the huge difference in physicality, between playing the open style running game of 7s rugby compared to the brute strength and force required for 15s. The Philippines had to back straight up to play Laos and in another very physical game of 15s rugby and they were able to come away with a draw, this was a great feat considering the Philippines only had a ten minute rest period after a bruising encounter against Thailand whilst Laos team had a game to rest after also defeating Thailand 12 – 5. The Philippines and Laos proceeded to have a 5 – 5 draw with Nikki Lira scoring the only try for the Philippines, it was decided before the tournament that games would not have overtime as it was a round robin format and this was unfortunate as the Philippines had an obvious second half advantage and had the younger Laos team on the ropes when the final whistle blew.
The Philippines had not lost and came away with a victory over their bigger and more fancied opponents Thailand to show everyone that the Filipinas can play 15s style Rugby and will now attend the Asian Regional tournaments in 2011 in both the 7s and 15s forms of Rugby Union. Auimi Ono from the Cebu Pink Dragons Club was voted the Best Player and Manila Santos from the team Manila GL was voted Best Forward. Coach Matt Cullen explained that “Every one of the Philippine Women showed great commitment and courage to play back to back International Games here today, what we have to work on is our execution of the finer skills required for 15s style Rugby Union. We will come back next year with a stronger and more skillful team with the vision of defending as well as we did here this year, but also with the knowledge that we can score more points to convincingly win games of 15s Rugby Union.”
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