The Philippine Volcanoes came out of the first day of the second leg of the Asian 7s Series in Borneo with two wins and one loss.
Game 1 - Japan
The day started with the Volcanoes taking on the number one Asian Rugby Nation, Japan. The Volcanoes began the game with strongman Chris Hitch breaking through the Japanese defense and running 70 meters to start the day for the Volcanoes on a positive note. Japan then capitalized on some simple errors by the Philippines in their own half and quickly scored three consecutive tries. Vice Captain, Oliver Saunders then replied with a strong try to keep the Philippines alive at halftime, with Japan leading 17 - 12. Japan showed why they are ranked number one in Asia in the second half as they scored three more tries while the Philippines though Harry Morris managed only one try. The Volcanoes did not play to their potential and all agreed a better effort would be needed in the upcoming games to ensure a top four placing at the championships. Justin Coveney "The Flying Jeepney" was awarded the Volcanoes MVP for the first game.
Game 2 - Kazakhstan
The second game saw the Philippines up against Kazakhstan who, just last month, had defeated the Philippines to nab a top four position in the Shanghai Sevens Tournament. The Volcanoes were intent on revenge and it was Philippine team newcomer Joe Matthews who opened with a great individual run where he was tackled on the line to score. However, it seemed like this positive start put the Philippines to sleep as they allowed the Kazakhs to come back into the game and score three unanswered tries to take a 19 - 5 lead at the end of the first half. During the halftime break, Volcanoes Captain Jake Letts rallied his teammates and asked them to keep their composure under pressure in the second half as he could see the Kazakhstan team starting to tire in the 40 degree humid conditions. The Philippines Captain was correct and the Volcanoes came out with Joe Matthews scoring his second try of the match, followed by his younger brother, Luke who scored to even the game at 19 - 19.
The Philippines realized that a draw would be good enough and somehow lifted their game in the last play to find the" Iceman" Chris Hitch unmarked out wide on the wing to score the winning try of the match. This set the scene for a showdown between the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates in the last game of the day, with both teams sitting with one win and one loss, this game would decide who would enter the top 8 teams for the finals on Sunday. The Philippines MVP for the second match was awarded to Luke Matthews.
Game 3 - United Arab Emirates
National Team Coach, Matt Cullen observed that the Philippines had played to only about 80% of their potential in the first two games of the day. Coach Cullen knew that the team would have to step up for the last game against the UAE who are ranked among the top five nations in Asia. The Philippines came out with firing and scored the first two tries through Joe Matthews and Matt Saunders, unfortunately both tries were scored out wide and both conversions were missed. This allowed the strong UAE team to fight back and score a try under the posts just before halftime to bring the score back to 10 - 7. The Philippines showed good skills in the second half and substitute Luke Matthews was again injected into the game which resulted in a try, which gave the Philippine a commanding 22 - 7 lead. The Volcanoes saved their best game for last and went onto to win the game by 22 - 14. . The MVP for the third match was split between Joe Matthews and Chris Hitch.
The wins versus Kazakhstan and UAE put the Philippines up against the home favourites, Malaysia in a quarter final battle with the winner of this game moving up to the Cup Division Finals and guaranteed a top 4 placing at the Asian Championships
Coach Matt Cullen was very happy with the Volcanoes efforts on the first day of the competition and applauded the heroic efforts of several players who put their bodies on the line to make try saving tackles and display the never give up attitude that the Volcanoes are renowned for, he explained that " We did not play the most exciting 7s Rugby today, but we worked extremely hard in defense and were able to improve with every game and finally showed some quality 7s skills in the final game. This will be a positive way to enter tomorrow’s crucial match against Malaysia."
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