It was all or nothing on Saturday afternoon as the SPI Philippine Volcanoes managed to withstand an onslaught from UAE in the final match of the Asia Rugby Championships in Ipoh, Malaysia.
The Volcanoes had been on the back foot throughout the entire tournament losing key players early in the competition, however a resilient spirit kept the Volcanoes together to finish third in the championships.
The match couldn’t have started any better for the Volcanoes, when a strategic kick from veteran fly half Gareth Dela Rosa Holgate saw a flying Justin Villazor Coveney take advantage of loose ball. Coveney withstood the bounce of the ball beating a UAE defender to put the Volcanoes in front 5 points to nil just 28 seconds into the game.
The UAE lineout tested the Philippines early with Edward Talbot scoring off the set piece. Talbot capitalized on a driving maul 11 minutes into the game with Andrew Stevenson slotting the conversion out wide putting the Emirates out in front 7 to 5.
The Volcanoes set the field alight in the 18th minute when Kevin Sysu Gordon took a high ball under extreme pressure to later find space with teammates Patrice Olivier and a Ned Plarizan Stephenson. Stephenson threw a brilliant offload down the left flank to put Gordon over in the left corner. The Volcanoes took the lead 10 points to 7.
Lack of discipline cost the Philippines a further three points after Stevenson of UAE further capitalized on another penalty to make it 10 points apiece.
On the verge of halftime, the Volcanoes took a gamble by electing to take a scrum on the last play knowing it could be a risky option. The Volcanoes however were rewarded with the decision after a solid set piece move from the backline found Gordon yet again in space using his silky skills with a line break, followed by a kick chase and an offload to fullback Patrice Ortiz Olivier scoring and giving the Philippines a 15 points to 10 advantage leading into the second half.
Both teams showed glimpses of brilliance in the second half. The Philippines got out to an early head start through a penalty goal to Gordon and another 5 points to Coveney. The Philippines built a 10-point buffer, however UAE crawled back into the match through a try to winger Ryno Fourie and two penalty goals from Stevenson after 66 minutes.
It wasn’t until the 71st minute the SPI Volcanoes re-gained the lead through fullback Olivier, a line break by Timothy Bweheni set up Olivier in the left corner taking the Volcanoes to a 31 to 26 with nine minutes remaining on the clock.
With a five point advantage the Volcanoes were in need to close out the match, a drop goal by Holgate in the last 30 seconds secured the match and a bronze medal finish for the SPI Volcanoes.
“A well deserved win to our Volcanoes, I am extremely proud of the way we finished. It’s been a tight campaign, I am so happy to finish on a high and secure third place” shared Volcanoes stalwart and retiree Austin Garnica Dacanay.
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