Singapore brushed by India in the D2 semi final, while hosts Malaysia upended Iran to set up another SIN-MAS classic on Saturday at Petaling Jaya Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
One of Asia’s longest running rugby rivalries will resume on Saturday, June 8, (kick-off at 18.00) as Singapore and Malaysia advanced from their semi final matches of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations (HSBC A5N) Division II competition today at the Petaling Jaya Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
Singapore, smarting from their demotion last year to Division II, beat India 67-8 to book its place in Saturday’s final, while Malaysia cruised past Iran 48-10 in front of a passionate local crowd of nearly 1,000 spectators.
Playing to its traditional strength in the forward pack, three Singapore forwards scored braces in the Rugby Lions’ victory: No 8 Peter McFeely, who opened the scoring in the 15th minute; flanker Matthew Roberts, who scored twice in the first half; and lock Murray Wyllie. Openside flanker Simon Etheridge, suiting up in replacement of team captain Daniel Marc Chow who was ill, added a try to see the pack account for seven of Singapore’s 11 tries on the day.
Singapore jumped out to an early lead through tries to McFeely and Roberts (2). Wing Bryan Ng added a nice solo effort with a 60-metre dash to represent the backline in the first half. Two conversions from scrumhalf Suhaimi Imran pushed Singapore into the lead 24-5 at the break. India prop Suresh Sajwan got his team on the board in the 27th minute with an unconverted try.
After the resumption of play, Singapore winger Nicholas Groen added to India’s woes with a try in the 45thminute before India replied with a penalty through scrumhalf Sujai Lama in the 50th minute. Lama’s penalty accounted for India’s last points of the afternoon as it was all one-way traffic for Singapore from there on out, especially with India losing two players to the sin bin in the second half.
McFeely scored his second try in the 52nd minute, with Imran’s conversion pushed Singapore further ahead at 36-8. Making their man-advantage count, Singapore crossed over for five more tries in the second half through Zaki Muhammad, Etheredge, Wyllie (2) and centre Andrew Bourke, to complete the rout at 67-8.
Match captain and hooker Gaspar Tan summed up his team’s effort nicely saying, “It was a strong display from the forwards. We started off really slow and gave up too many penalties but in the second half we made adjustments. We were more disciplined and just kept moving forward with the ball and the tries flowed from there.”
A disappointed India captain Nasser Hussain said, “We were up against a team that was recently relegated from Division I and it showed. There was a considerable difference between the two sides and they analysed our game well and took our strengths away. But despite the score line there were a few positives today and hopefully we can build on those for Iran on Friday.”
Malaysia also enjoyed a relatively uncomplicated passage to the Division I promotion decider on Saturday with a 48-10 win over a physical Iran XV that was every bit the hosts’ match in terms of physicality and commitment but lacked composure at times.
Malaysian fullback Mohd Fairuz ab Rahman paced his side to an early 11-0 lead after converting his first penalty chance in the second minute, followed by a try in the 3rd minute and another penalty in the 8th minute.
Ab Rahman’s solo effort was rounded out by No 8 Timoci Nacokula to push Malaysia ahead 18-0 at the 15-minute marker.
Iran’s first half points came through captain and No 8 Iraj Rostami who finished a nice offload from hard charging lock Morteza Rasouli at Malaysia’s 5-metre line to send his side into the sheds with some momentum at 18-5.
In the second half, Rasouli added his own try early in the opening minutes in a fitting reward for a tireless defensive effort on the day, bringing Iran within touching distance at 18-10. But the visitors’ lack of match experience began to tell with unforced errors creeping into the game and poor kicking from hand conceding significant possession to the Malaysians.
Malaysia made the most of their opportunities in the second half scoring four more tries through centre Atunaisa Takuba, reserve back Zulkiflee Azmi, scrumhalf Mohd. Nazeer Mohd. Nesharah and Wan Izzudin Ismail. Ab Rahman added another conversion, before handing off the kicking duties to reserve fullback Nazreen Fitri Nasruddin whose two penalties and a conversion brought the final score to Malaysia 48, Iran 10.
Fullback ab Rahman, who collected 15 points on the day with a try, two penalties and two conversions was pleased with the day’s work, saying, “We’re really happy with the performance. Iran is a big, heavy team and our strategy was to get the ball wide and avoid contact and we were successful.”
Iran coach Pedram Baniameriyan credited the opposition saying, “Malaysia were very good today but I am proud of my boys. We played good rugby today but we are lacking the experience at test match level that we need and it shows.”
India and Iran will now face off in the Division II 3rd/4th place match to decide who is relegated to Division III in 2014. The relegation match will be played on Friday June 7 at Petaling Jaya Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
Singapore and Malaysia will meet in the Division II final on Saturday at 18.00 at Petaling Jaya in a match that resumes one of Asia’s fiercest rugby rivalries.
“Singapore v Malaysia is like the French playing the English it is that kind of rivalry,” said Singapore coach Inoke Afeaki, adding that, “I like the Malaysian style of rugby. It is very fluid and it brings Singapore rugby out of its comfort zone, which is what we need. I think it will help us to play a more balanced kind of rugby, which is what we need if we want to go back up to the next level.”
Singapore captain Daniel Marc Chow added, “Playing Malaysia is always big for us and for them I’m sure. We really want to get the better of each other. It doesn’t matter what we are playing for when we are playing Malaysia. It’s more than just promotion on the line there is a lot of pride at stake which is going to really help the boys get motivated for Saturday.”
HSBC A5N Division III semi-finals will be held tomorrow as part of a festival of rugby in Kuala Lumpur. Top seeds China will face off against newly promoted Qatar in the second semi final at 17.00, while second seeds Guam face Indonesia in the first semi-final at 15.00. All games are held at the Petaling Jaya Stadium in Kuala Lumpur. Admission is free.