The Philippines established their offense behind Oli Saunders’ three penalty kicks in the first half for a 9-0 lead. Thirty minutes into the match, Michael Letts reminded everyone why he’s the team captain, as he barreled through the Sri Lankan defense to reach in for the first Philippine try. Coupled with a good kick, the Philippines went up, 16-0.
Three minutes later, Joe Matthews scored another one for the Volcanoes. With another successful kick, the Philippines went up 23-0 with seven minutes left in the half. But just before the halftime whistle sounded, Sri Lanka goes for a penalty kick to finally put themselves on the board, 23-3.
The Sri Lankan offense stayed persistent, scoring a try eight minutes into the second half to cut the lead to 23-8. They scored again in the 18th minute, to close the gap at 23-15. They scored through another penalty kick in the 26th minute to inch closer, 23-18.
But in the 31st minute, Justin Coveney broke through the Sri Lankan defense to give the Philippines some breathing room, 28-18. From then on, the Sri Lankans never got the chance to recover as the Philippine defene foiled their numerous attempts to score.
The Volcanoes, with the win, gain an entry into the Asian Top 5, the tournament that will send at least one Asian nation to the 2015 Rugby World Cup in London, England.
The Volcanoes, who are currently ranked 62nd in the world, are expected to rise even higher in the International Rugby Board (IRB) rankings due to their impressive showing in the recently-concluded Division 1 tournament.
They defeated higher-ranked Singapore (56th), 37-20, in their opening game last week then followed it up with a 34-12 blow-out win against another higher-ranked team in Chinese Taipei (58th) last Wednesday.
The Volcanoes, in the final match that will determine which team will be promoted to the Asian Top 5, outplayed Sri Lanka (43rd), the highest-seeded team in the tournament.
The team’s performance highlights the Philippines’ rise to being one of Asia’s elite rugby teams. The Philippines has one of the youngest rugby unions in the world, only gaining membership in the IRB in 2008.
Having been able to draw awareness and support from its home crowd, it now prepares itself to improve even more to make a run for the 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifiers to be held in Japan. — JVP, GMA News