The Philippine Volcanoes, backed by headline sponsors SEAPAC Philippines (SPI) and First Pacific, rallied in a second half performance to secure the first match in the Division 1 Asia Rugby Championships.
In unexpected dry conditions at Southern Plains Sports Field, a strong home crowd inspired the Volcanoes, stringing together a winning performance.
It was Singapore who drew first blood, after an intelligent drop goal four minutes into the match from Fullback Jonathan Barber took the visitors to a three point head start. It wasn’t long until the Volcanoes returned fire after a slick play saw debutant Sean Celada Lynch cross over for the first points for the Volcanoes in the sixth minute to take the lead 5 points to 3.
The Volcanoes continued to attack deep within their own territory, however, it was Team Singapore who capitalised on an early mistake forcing a turnover. Jonathan Barber, in the right place at the right time, jumped on the opportunity to score his teams first try off a support play, taking the lead 8 to 5. Back-to-back ill discipline cost the Volcanoes a further 6 points taking the Singaporeans to a 14 to 5 head start after 23 minutes.
It wasn’t until the final play before halftime the Volcanoes answered back. Halfback Joe Palabay Dawson swiped through the blindside off a scrum into an open field play to secure crucial points for the Philippines. With a successful conversion from Vice Captain Danny Bembo Matthews, the half time break saw Singapore 14 to 12 ahead.
It wasn’t long until the home team regathered the lead, another penalty conversion from Matthews gave the home side the edge 15 to 14. The Volcanoes continued to apply pressure off open field phase play which put Dawson in for his second try to take the Volcanoes to a 20 to 14 lead. Singapore kept their attack with a breakaway try to winger Xavier Ducournean. Another successful conversion from Barber put Singapore out to a 21 to 20 lead with twenty minutes to play.
A set of fresh legs and a strong impact off the substitution bench kept the Volcanoes alive. Robert Luceno Fogerty, the youngest member of the Volcanoes and the fourth debutant in the match sparked an attack from the home team. Fogerty with fast feet continued to show glimpses of class and in the 72nd minute created a much needed break for the Volcanoes. Fogerty went on to score in front of a vocal home crowd.
It was all very surreal for an emotional Fogerty, “it’s hard to believe to have scored on debut, it meant a lot”
With a vocal backing of a Philippine pro crowd, the Volcanoes continued to draw inspiration, Edlen Cortez Hernandez scoring another 5 pointer off a driving maul to put the match safely into the advantage of the home team. A late penalty goal to Singapore settled the score 32 to 24 with all to play in the final and last match on Tuesday.
“We were solid in defence up front, we showed heart. Our backs proved to be dominant in space” shared team Captain Steven Pagtalunan Howorth.
With a two match series, all is still to be played for in the final match of the series. The winning team will be decided on a points system so the best team over two matches will gain the championship title.
The final match will be played at 3:00pm on Tuesday, June 26 at Southern Plains, Calamba. The Volcanoes will be aiming to win the Division 1 Asian Rugby Championships on home soil, the first time since winning the title back in 2012.