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Iran and Indonesia retain spots in 2014 Division II and III

Iran out-muscled India to keep its spot in Division II for 2014. In the Div 3 relegation match, Indonesia sent China toppling to its lowest tournament (Division IV) since the HSBC A5N started in 2008.  PHOTO: Kenji Demura/RJP.

Iran and Indonesia maintained their grip on 3rd place in the HSBC Asian 5 Nations (HSBC A5N) Division II and III tournaments respectively today with wins over India and China.

Iran beat India 30-13 this afternoon at the Petaling Jaya Stadium to maintain its spot in next season’s Division II competition, while Indonesia beat China 37-13 in the Division III relegation match.

Today’s results see India return to Division III next season after winning the same competition last year (also held in Kuala Lumpur). India will join the loser of tomorrow’s Division III final between Guam and Qatar, Indonesia and Lebanon, this year’s promoted Division IV champions in the 2014 Division III tournament.  China slip to Division IV, its lowest placing in the HSBC A5N since the tournament’s inception in 2008.

Iran’s victory sees them maintain their Division II spot next season alongside Thailand, relegated from Division I in April, the loser of tomorrow’s Singapore v Malaysia Division II final (kick-off at 18.00 at Petaling Jaya Stadium) and the winner of the Guam v Qatar Division III final (16.00).

In the opening match, Indonesia comprehensively beat China, who were relegated from Division II in 2012 and lost to Qatar in the opening semi-final on Tuesday (June 5). Indonesia scored six tries, three in either half, and entered halftime with an 18-6 lead that was never threatened. The Indonesia Rhinos’ tries came from lock Florian Busi (his second of the tournament), No 8 Dian Simatupang, who collected a brace today with tries in both halves, and fullback Mike Bavin. Flyhalf Bobby Sumantri added a penalty, while China captain and inside centre Bian Hanchi slotted two penalties for China’s first points of the tournament in the opening stanza.

China v Indonesia D3 relegation game (First Half)

China v Indonesia D3 relegation game (SecondHalf)

2013 HSBC A5N Logo Stacked_Final_thumbChina never threatened the Indonesian lead, which was stretched to 23-6 in the 46th minute when Simatupang collected his second try of the game.  Bobby Sumantri added the conversion to bring the score to 25-6. Flanker Markus Didikus Ria crossed over for Indonesia’s fifth try in the 54th minute. Sumantri’s conversion pushed Indonesia further ahead 32-6.

Winger Askar Otode closed out the Indonesian scoring today for Indonesia, before China collected a late consolation try, its first of the tournament, through centre Shibao Li. China’s try was converted by Bian to bring the final score to 37-13.

Indonesia captain Daniel Nugroho was pleased with the result, saying, “We took a long-term approach to this year’s tournament leaving out several of our more experienced expatriate players in favour of getting more young local players involved. We were disappointed to lose to Guam in the opener but I’m really excited at the way we responded. We weren’t afraid to lose today as we want to build for the future, but it was a great result and the young guys will now be that much keener to keep up the hard work for next year.”

The Division II relegation match was a more tightly contested affair with both sides entering the halftime break level on 13 points apiece.

India enjoyed the better start, jumping out to a 10-0 lead after the first ten minutes through a penalty to scrumhalf Sujai Lama and a try to lock Sukhdeep Singh, which was also converted by Lama.

But Iran struck back in the second quarter with its first try coming from crafty flyhalf Sajad Izadi.  Iran inched closer to the lead after centre Bezhad Jalili slotted a penalty in the 24th minute to bring Iran to narrow the deficit to 8-10. Iran took its first lead in the 31st minute as flanker Hamid Zare converted some steady pressure by the bulky Iranian pack into points, collecting off the back of the scrum to drive over the line and put Iran ahead at 13-10.

India stormed back quickly earning a penalty chance in the 36th minute.  Lama’s kick was successful and the game was level on 13 points as the two teams entered the changing sheds.

In the second half, a steady rain swept over Kuala Lumpur making conditions more challenging, but Iran responded positively while India seemed to lose direction in the final forty.

Despite having two near-consecutive Iranian sin-bins, India failed to convert their extra-man advantage into points, instead yielding tries on both occasions.

Iran scored its first try of the second half through centre Geghart Markarian after Mohsen Jalali was sent off for failing to keep his feet in the ruck. The conversion was unsuccessful leaving Iran ahead 18-13.

Frustration set in for Iran when they lost another player to the bin shortly after Jalali’s return to the pitch as winger Reza Bayat was sent to the bin for committing the same offence. But this time the rested Jalali was the hero instead of the villain for his side as he crossed the line for his first try of the tournament, giving Iran a 25-13 lead after the successful conversion.

Iran fullback Ramin Najafi added the icing on the cake when he crossed over for the last try of the match with four minutes remaining to put Iran clear at 30-13.  Iran will now maintain its Division II spot next season while India returns to the starting bloc after its promotion from Division III last season.

D2 3rd/4th Place Final: Iran v India 1st Half

D2 3rd/4th Place Final: Iran v India 2nd Half

An elated Iran coach Pedram Baniameriyan said, “We lost our opening match to Malaysia because we did not have enough test match experience coming into the tournament. We have improved a lot since the first game and I am pleased that the things we discussed in training this week were executed on the field. It is very important for Iran to stay in this division to continue to attract support at home and now we must work hard to try to gain promotion to Division I next year.”

A visibly frustrated India captain Nasser Hussain said, “It is incredibly disappointing to lose after we started so strongly. But credit to Iran they played to their strengths and we were not able to close them out like we had hoped. We lacked the ability to adjust to changes during the game and now we will have to return to Division III and start to put together a solid base that will keep us moving in the right direction.”

Eight teams are competing in this week’s festival of Asian rugby in Kuala Lumpur, including three of top four world’s most populous countries: China (1st), India (2nd) and Indonesia (4th).

This week’s competition also features two of the most geographically remote Asian Rugby Football Union teams in Qatar from West Asia and Guam from East Asia; as well as the two closest rivals in Singapore and Malaysia – separated only by a thin strip of road.

Singapore and Malaysia will meet in the Division II finals tomorrow in the showcase match of this week’s tournament which is shaping up to be the “clash of the Causeway”.

The HSBC A5N Division II and III finals will be held tomorrow at Petaling Jaya Stadium in Kuala Lumpur. Guam face Qatar in the Division III decider with promotion to Division II on the line, (kick-off 16.00). At 18.00 the Division II final pits top seeds Singapore against the hosts Malaysia with a spot in next season’s Division I at stake. Admission to all matches is free.

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