The SPI Volcanoes were on the back foot from the opening whistle during their first match at the Asia Rugby Championships in Ipoh, Malaysia.
A penalty conversion to Thilina Wijisingle Gurukandure Gedara put the Tuskers in the lead 4 minutes into the first half. Soon after, unfortunate injuries to team captain Oliver Abalos Saunders and starting half Joe Palabay Dawson further hampered the Volcanoes as they struggled to find any momentum. In the 16th minute Danuska Ranjan Wijekook-Mudiyanselage crossed the white line for a further 5 points to make it 8 points to nil. A late penalty goal on halftime by Gurukandure Gedara had Sri Lanka in the lead 11 points to 0.
The Volcanoes showed glimpses of brilliance in the second half with a penalty conversion to Kevin Sysu Gordon in the 60th minute plus the formation of a new centre pairing with Ricky Alarcon Kucia and Ned Plarizan Stephenson. Kucia and Stephenson teamed up on two separate occasions setting up try for Kucia on his debut for the Volcanoes. A few minutes later, Stephenson set up another for Justin Villazor Coveney in the left corner to make it 21 to 13. It was little too late for the SPI Volcanoes as Sri Lanka converted a late penalty to make it 24 to 13 at the final whistle.
The Volcanoes will look to gear up and prepare for their second match against Malaysia on Wednesday. The Volcanoes will have some confidence after being the only team to defeat the reigning Division 1 Championships at home in last year’s tournament. Malaysia however will be looking for a second win after defeating the UAE 36 to 22 in their first round match on Sunday.
The Philippines will have a rearrangement in the line up with a string of injuries and few slight changes to the starting 15. Gareth Dela Rosa Holgate will be joining the team as a replacement for Oliver Abalos Saunders after the team captain was ruled out for the rest of the tournament.
"It was disappointing for me, but thats rugby. The boys played well considering we lost both myself and Joey early in the first half. I know Gareth has a wealth of experience and the team look forward to his arrival" shared Saunders.
The Asia Rugby Championships is still far from over, all four teams still having a chance to win the title. Malaysia just last year lost the opening match to the Volcanoes before upsetting Sri Lanka in game 2 and winning convincingly over Singapore in their third and final match to finish Division 1 champions on point difference.
The Volcanoes are now setting themselves up for the same road, two must win matches starting Wednesday at 2.00pm against the home nation and their final match against fourth seeded UAE on Saturday 20th May.
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