Source : Ronnie Nathanielsz on PhilBoxing.com
The Philippine “Volcanoes” men’s Rugby 7s team has beaten the odds by winning the Silver Medal at the 2011 Asian Men’s Rugby 7s Championships at the Likas Stadium in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Although they were ranked only No. 7 in Asia, the “Volcanoes” overcame the odds to reach their first ever Cup final.
The Philippines started off with an emphatic win in a heated match with hometown favorites Malaysia with the final score 28-14.
The Volcanoes reported that it was the “Flying Jeepney” Justin Coveney who opened the scoring for the volcanoes before Matt Saunders scored the Philippines next try to even the game at 14 – 14 at the halftime break. The same players reversed the try scoring efforts in the second half and the Philippines knocked out Malaysia in front of their home crowd to move to the semi final against the powerhouse sporting nation, China.
The Philippines had never beaten China in Rugby 7s and the teams had met on four occasions in the Asian championships in 2010 and 2011.
Knowing they had to combat the speed of the Chinese speed, the Volcanoes fielded Luke Matthews in the starting line up in order to add some pace to the outside backs.
The tactic paid off immediately with Matthews going over for the Philippines first try.
China fought back immediately to score two tries and led 14-7 at halftime.
The game hung in the balance until the “Hitchenator” Chris Hitch broke through some weak Chinese defense to score the equalizer just before fulltime to end in a 14-14 draw.
The Asian Men’s Championships is played by the top 12 Rugby Nations in Asia and is considered very much like an Asian Games competition.
The feat was regarded as remarkable considering that rugby is only now catching on much like football through the efforts of the popular Azkals.
The Philippines en route to the finals had beaten Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and China.
In the finals Asia’s top team Japan ran roughshod over the Philippines scoring eight unanswered tried to sweep to a 46-0 victory to clinch the second and final ranking event in the HSBC Asian Sevens Series, retaining its position as the top team in Asian Sevens for the second consecutive year.
The young Japanese squad turned on skill and power to completely outclass the Volcanoes who were playing in their first final in the short history of the game.
Japanese coach Wataru Murata said “Our speed and skill was probably too good for the Philippines. But this win is just the beginning for us as we are looking ahead to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Japan fielded only one player from the team that won the gold medal in the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China last year. The youthful Japanese moved quickly into top gear to stamp their class. Their toughest game had come in the semi finals when they came from behind to beat defending champions Hong Kong 15-12.
Philippine Volcanoes coach Mat Cullen said “We had set a goal of reaching the last four in the tournament . We have now set a few records. We beat China for the first time and by entering the final we have put Philippine rugby on the map. Finishing second to a team like Japan is an honor. It is way beyond our expectations.”
Cullen was overjoyed with the performance of the Volcanoes. He said “ We will now win an invite to compete in the world renowned Hong Kong 7s next March and compete at the Olympic level. Just another challenge that the Volcanoes are ready to take in their stride as they keep breaking records and proving everyone wrong on their path to glory.”