Singapore celebrate scintillating win over Malaysia. Book spot in next season’s Division I championship. PHOTO: Kenji Demura/RJP
Singapore scrumhalf Suhaimi Amran slotted a pressure penalty kick in the 80th minute of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations (HSBC A5N) Division II final tonight to beat Malaysia 20-17 and return the Rugby Lions to next year’s Division I tournament.
The win sees Singapore promoted to Division I after being relegated from the same competition in 2012. Singapore will be the fourth seeds in next year’s tournament alongside UAE (1), Kazakhstan (2) and Chinese Taipei (3).
Tonight’s’ game was a close run affair throughout with the two teams separated by just two points at halftime and level at 17-all entering the game’s final five minutes.
The two sides jousted for most of the first half with Malaysia’s flyhalf Nazreen Fitri Nasaruddin slotting two penalties in the opening 30 minutes to give his side a 6-0 lead.
Singapore was the first to cross the try line with captain and lock Daniel Marc Chow pushing over from a rolling maul off a lineout at the Malaysian 5-metre line to put his side on the board. Amran’s successful conversion put Singapore ahead by one point at 7-6 before Nasruddin kicked his final penalty of the first half to help Malaysia re-take the lead 9-7 at the break.
An early sin bin in the second half to Malaysia hooker Mohd Khuzaidi Abdullah gave Singapore the man-advantave which they capitalized on almost immediately as centre Blandon Tan scored Singapore’s second try of the match beneath the posts. Amran’s conversion saw Singapore lead 14-9 in the 46th minute.
Malaysia converted another long penalty attempt in the 55th minute, this time through winger Anwarful Hafiz Ahmad, to claw within two points at 12-14. In the 69th minute, Amran converted another penalty to push Singapore ahead by five points (17-12).
Not to be outdone by his counterpart, Malaysia captain Mohammad Syahir Asyraf Rosli capped off a nice flowing move with an impressive solo effort to level the scores at 17-all with six minutes remaining.
The last moments of the game were a tense affair as both sides traded opportunities and were on tenterhooks to not give away penalties with both side’s kickers on-song. In the 79th minute, Malaysia’s no 8 Timoci Nacokula was sin-binned giving Amran an opportunity to win the match for Singapore.
Despite the 1,200-strong crowd making a raucous attempt to put him off his kick, Amran calmly converted the penalty from 30 metres out and to the right of the posts to put Singapore clear 20-17 as the final whistle sounded.
Singapore captain Daniel Marc Chow commented on the win after the match saying:
“Full credit to Malaysia they threw everything they had at us and pushed us to the limit. But fortunately we defended well. We didn’t really execute our offense like we wanted to but we kept our nerve and full credit to Suhaimi [Amran] for keeping his nerve with that last kick.
“It’s massive for us to return to Division I. We are targeting returning to the Top 5 in the next two years and I think we can achieve that. This year we had a new coaching team in place, which took a while to get used to, but I think that this win proves that it is working and we can build on this to return to the elite level in Asian rugby.
“We’re going to celebrate tonight definitely. The guys worked really hard and now we can enjoy it,” added a relieved Chow.
Full Match: D2 Final Singapore v Malaysia (1stHalf)
Full Match: D2 Final Singapore v Malaysia (2nd Half)