Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rugby Test: Asia Nations: Singapore 23, China Taipei 22

Chinese Taipei defenders Wang Jen-Hsi (white & blue jersey left) and Wang Kuo-Feng (white & blue jersey right) try to bring down Singapore winger Jonathon Chen intoday's HSBC Asian Five Nations Division I Tournament in Tainan, Chinese Taipei. Singapore won today's match 23 - 22 after a last second try.

HSBC Asian Five Nations Division I
Singapore Survive Second Scare
From Sean Moore

Singapore 23, China Taipei 22

Singapore have survived a second scare to become the comeback side in the HSBC Asian Five Nations Division I Tournament after edging hosts Chinese Taipei with a last minute try to win the second match of the round robin tournament today in Tainan.

The win comes less than 48 hours after Singapore clawed back a draw against Sri Lanka with another 40th minute try in the opening match of the Asian Five Nations Division I Tournament played on Tuesday night, 11 November.

Nearly 400 fans were treated to another thriller today as both teams exchanged scores in perfect conditions. At the outset, Singapore looked as if they were still suffering from the effects of their Tuesday night heroics, as they conceded a try to Chinese Taipei from the kick-off through veteran centre Wu Chih-Chien. The try was not converted giving Chinese Taipei a 5 – nil lead. But Singapore bounced back, turning the tables with some consistent pressure on the Chinese Taipei defence for the second ten minutes of the first half. Despite the steady pressure, Chinese Taipei held the visitors to two penalties to bring the score to Singapore 6 – Chinese Taipei 5.

The Guinness Singapore Rugby Lions soon reverted to its successful game plan of earlier in the week, looking to the forward pack to make the hard yards and wear down Chinese Taipei’s consistent defensive line. In the 31st minute good interplay between the back row of No. 8 Ben Wheeler and flankers Andrew Bennett and Rong Jing Xiang opened up a gap for centre Daniel Thiam who further penetrated the defence before popping up to full-back Gareth Pritchard who crossed over for Singapore’s first try. The conversion by fly half John Forrester was successful, bringing the score to 13 – 5 Singapore.

Just five minutes later Chinese Taipei’s pacey backline finally found some breathing room amongst the Singapore defence, as centre Wang Jen-Hsi beautifully wrong-footed the opposition before dishing to winger Wang Kuo-Feng who crossed the line and moved behind the posts before touching down. The conversion was good bringing the score at halftime to 13 – 12 Singapore.

After a slow start to the second half by both teams, Chinese Taipei drew first blood through sharp centre Wang Jen-Hsi who successfully chased down an up and under that was bobbled by Singapore full back Pritchard. Wang picked up beautifully and finished off untouched from the 22-metre line. The successful conversion by fly half Chang Wei-Cheng put Chinese Taipei in the lead 19 – 13.

Long passages of play resumed before Singapore broke the impasse with another penalty through Forrester to bring the score to 19 – 16 in favour of the hosts. Frustration seeped in on both sides with two yellow cards being awarded in the 34th and 36th minute to Chinese Taipei hooker Chiu Po-Chih and Singapore fly half Forrester respectively. After Forrester was sent to the bin, Chinese Taipei kicked drop goal through fly half Chang Wei-Cheng to bring the score to 22 – 16 and seemingly put the game out of reach.

But in a replay of their last minute comeback from Match I, Singapore again rallied to drive the ball down field before hooker Gaspar Tan plunged over the line to bring the score to 22 – 21 Chinese Taipei. With Singapore’s fly-half and first choice kicker in the bin, the duties were left to Singapore centre Mohammed Ismail who calmly slotted his kick from the 22 to edge Singapore into the lead for good, 23 – 22.

The victory sees the Guinness Singapore Rugby Lions exit the HSBC Asian Five Nations Division I Tournament undefeated with a record of one win and one draw. Singapore’s tops the table with 8 points (5 points from a win and 3 points from their earlier draw). Sri Lanka lies in second place with 3 points from their draw versus Singapore. The hosts Chinese Taipei are in third place with 1 point, the result of a bonus point for losing by seven points or less.

In case of a tie on the Tournament table, (and in light of the previous draw between Singapore and Sri Lanka), the winner will be determined by points differential, then tries differential, most tries, most converted tries, most points scored and the least amount of first yellow and then red cards. If the table is still drawn a winner will be determined by the toss of a coin.

Sri Lanka now meets Chinese Taipei in the last match of the HSBC Asian Five Nations Tournament on Saturday, 15 November 2008, at 3.00pm. The winner of the Division I Tournament earns automatic promotion to the elite HSBC Asian Five Nations Top 5 competition alongside reigning champions Japan, as well as Korea, Hong Kong and Kazakhstan. The Top 5 competition is a Home and Away series that takes place every weekend from the last week of April through May 2009.

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