Qatar upset the HSBC Asian 5 Nations formbook today with a resounding 76-nil win over top seeds China. In the afternoon’s opening semi final, Guam cruised past Indonesia 33-15 in wet conditions to book its place in the Division II promotion match on Saturday, June 8, at Petaling Jaya Stadium in Kuala Lumpur (kick-off at 16.00 local time).
Under grey skies and heavy rains for most of the afternoon, Qatar, HSBC Asian 5 Nations (HSBC A5N) Division IV champions in 2011 and 2012 kept their winning ways alive despite marking their debut in Division III. With Qatar scoring in the opening minute of the match, the result was never really in doubt, coming as it did against a depleted China XV missing most of its first-choice backline who are on duty for their provinces at the upcoming All-China Games sevens qualification tournament.
Qatar was paced by the boot of ex-Arabian Gulf RFU flyhalf Paul Beard, who collected 26 points today with 10 of 12 kicking including nine conversions and one penalty.
Winger Gavin Millar opened the scoring for Qatar in the first minute, followed by four more tries in the first half, the last by Millar as well, making him one of two Qatar players to collect a brace today alongside outsidecentre Colm Coyle.
Prop Joseph Goonetilleke and centres Lillian Cance and Coyle added tries with Millar’s second bookending the five-try opening half. Beard added a penalty and was a perfect five for five with his conversion attempts to give Qatar a 38-0 lead at half.
The conditions improved dramatically with the rains stopping shortly before halftime and the temperatures and humidity dropping, allowing Qatar to keep applying pressure. Qatar ran in six more tries in the second half through wing Mubarak Al Malik, Coyle’s second, hooker Shane Kelly, flanker Jamie Frost, and fullback AdamBeadon, before Beard capped off his afternoon with the final try and conversion.
After the game Beard said, “The conditions were a massive factor as we aren’t used to playing in the wet like this so we had to adapt. I thought we did really well. We played the corners and were clinical in our finishing.
“Coming into this tournament, obviously we were stepping up from Division Four, so we didn’t know what to expect. We hadn’t played any of these teams before, so we just concentrated on our own play and we took it out onto the park today,” said Beard.
The opening semi final between second seeds Guam and Indonesia was marred by heavy rains, but Guam handled the wet weather best and advanced to a convincing 33-15 win. Guam jumped out to an early start of its own this afternoon, scoring its first try through No 8 Ron Berking in the third minute, and adding a penalty after Indonesian prop Bambang Sugiharto was sin-binned in the 11th minute.
Indonesia replied through a penalty of its own to flyhalf Bobby Sumantri but Guam answered quickly and efficiently with a second penalty through fullback Gerard Aguon. Guam flanker William Williams crossed over for the second try of the match after some nice open field running in the 37th minute to send his side into the locker room with a 16-3 lead and the halftime momentum.
The second half saw Indonesia breach the Guam defence for the first time off an intercept try to centre Steven Field who scampered 60 metres to finish and claw the Rhinos back to an 8-16 deficit. But Guam answered just moments later through a try to lock Robert Leon Guerrero to extend their lead to 23-8 after Aguon’sconversion.
The two sides tussled for the next 20 minutes before Guam broke the deadlock with a try to prop BasilO’Mallon before pacy centre Chris Sgro finished a clean backline move to put Guam ahead 33-8 with ten minutes remaining.
Indonesia scored a consolation try in the 74th minute through lock Florian Busi. Sumantri’s conversion brought Indonesia back to 33-15 but it was not enough on the day to overturn the second seeds and Indonesia will again have its back to the wall in a relegation match against China.
Guam reached the Division III final for a second successive year and will face new kids on the block Qatar in a winner-take-all match for promotion to next year’s Division II competition. Next year’s Division II tournament will feature the winner of Guam v Qatar, relegated 2013 Division I side Thailand; the loser of the Singapore v Malaysia Division II final and the winner of the India v Iran relegation match on Saturday and Friday respectively at Petaling Jaya.
After the match Guam captain Paul Claros said, “We knew from last year’s game that the Rhinos were going to take us on up front and we know they are very capable of being physical. So it was our goal to start well up front and establish ourselves early on. We were able to do that and it turned out to be a really good game.”
The Division III final will be played as a curtain-raiser to the Division II final on Saturday (Jun 8). It will be an interesting test of the youth and pace of Guam against the nous of the experienced campaigners from Qatar. The front row battle between packs could be crucial. Guam blooded two new props with both size and mobility against Indonesia and the youngsters will have their hands full against the Qatar veterans on Saturday.
Today’s results now clarify the match schedule for the Division II and III relegation matches on Friday as China will play Indonesia in the Division III 3rd/4th place decider at 15.00 while India and Iran battle it out for the right to stay in Division II (17.00). All games are at Petaling Jaya Stadium and admission is free.