Tim Alonso Berry celebrates after scoring on debut - all photos courtesy of Asia Rugby
The Philippine Volcanoes, backed by MVP Sports Foundation and the Philippine Sports Commission stepped up to the challenge last night as they defeated Sri Lanka, the top ranked team in the Division 1 Asia Rugby Championships in Taipei. The Volcanoes pounced early in the first half,after star centre Robert Luceno Fogerty found the try line in the first minute of play. The Tuskers capitalised soon after through a penalty goal to Samuel Mduwantha however Team Captain Danny Bembo Matthews returned fire with a successful penalty conversion of his own making 8 to 3. For the next 25 minutes each nation went toe-to-toe for possession and territory. It wasn’t until the 34th minute where Sri Lanka first took their first lead of the match scoring off a driving maul making it 10 points to 8 with six minutes to play in the first half.
Soon after a dominant run from Edlen Cortez Hernandez broke the Sri Lankan defence with Tim Alonso Berry provided quick skills to score on debut right before the bell to give the Philippines the lead moving into the half time break. Matthews successfully added the two extra points with the Philippines up after 40 minutes of play 15 to 10.
The start of the second half started exactly the same as the first, the Philippines playing positive running rugby with consistent play. Fogerty once again capitalised on quick ball scoring a double making it 20 to 10 two minutes into the second half. From here on in, the Volcanoes never looked like slowing down. Back-to-back points with Ned Plarizan Stephenson and Justin Villazor Coveney both scoring 5 pointers with Matthews adding the extras. Up 36 points to 10 the Volcanoes earned themselves a comfortable scoreline ahead. To their credit, a never give in attitude had the Sri Lankans score two late tries however in between a penalty conversion to Matthews had the score out of reach, making it 39 to 22 after 80 minutes of play.
“Really proud of the team. The forwards especially dug deep and were clinical which allowed the backs to get clean ball and play attacking rugby. It was a real team effort. Credit to Sri Lanka who can score tries from anywhere, we just needed to hold out until the final whistle. The team showed a lot of maturity and composure to finish the game as winners” shared Matthews.
The Volcanoes have set a rematch in the grand final against Singapore, as Singapore defeated host nation Chinese Taipei 18 to 13. The Volcanoes will be looking to defend their title as 2018 champions and look to build on their momentum from last nights victory.
“Singapore have a strong forward pack and can be explosive in the backs but it’s important as a team we focus on ourselves and improvements we can make from Wednesday's game. It's important that we step up from last night’s performance and improve yet again” added the Team Captain.
The grand final will be played on Saturday, June 1 at 7:00pm at Taipei Municipality Stadium..