In the first game under new National Sevens coach, Al Caravelli, the Philippines, ranked 4 for this event, took on Singapore. Given that this was the coach's first assignment, and the squad contained just one player from the HK Sevens squad which performed in March, the whole approach was to execute all elements of the new game plan well. Coach Caravelli has decades of experience in Sevens rugby having played for and coached the American Eagles Sevens team, which is now a part of the 15 core teams qualified for the World Series of Sevens.
The Philippines emerged with a narrow win over Singapore 17 -14, with Andrew Wolff showing his experience and calm, going over with no time left on the clock.
Earlier, co-captain, Harry Morris, had opened the scoring for the Volcanoes showing good awareness after a ruck, to spot the lack of cover and he dotted down under the posts. the Volcanoes then were under pressure when Brian West was yellow-carded (two minutes off the pitch) for a dangerous tackle, which seemed to objective observers to be a harsh call. Kenny Stern found himself in space and with a two-on-one situation popped to Nigel Maher who scooted in to score, but he missed the conversion and that left the Volcanoes down 12 - 14. Despite the prospect of bowing out early from the Cup competition, the Philippines retained their composure and patience and aided by Singapore being reduced to six men late in the game, Wolff's heroics saw them through their first match.
In the afternoon, South Korea were out for revenge in the Volcanoes' second Pool A match, the Philippines having taken their spot at the Hong Kong Sevens. Although the final score looked unflattering at 0-29, the boys generally played well, with most of South Korea's tries coming from individual skill errors from the Pinoys. The Koreans are a much improved side from last year and looked to be in good shape to make the semi-finals of the Cup competition. Late in the game, co-captain Mark Chatting, the only representative to be at the Hong Kong Sevens, badly twisted his ankle, and took no further part in the tournament.
In the quarter final on Sunday morning, Japan (eventual winners of the tournament, having won also in 2011) were always going to be a tough proposition. Kit Guerra came in to replace Chatting.
The final score was 53-5, the only consolation coming after a strong ruck against bigger opponents led to Nigel Maher being in the clear. A perfectly timed pass to Kenny Stern in support saw him "away to the races" to give some confidence that they could mix it with the big boys. Next up would be the United Arab Emirtaes (UAE) in the plate competition.
This game represents an appetiser to the main event scheduled for next year in A5N fifteens rugby, when the Philippines will take on UAE at home on April 20, 2013. After conceding an early try the Volcanoes went on to score the next three tries via Harry Morris, Ken Stern and Andrew Wolff. With the game seeming to be comfortably in the bag the Philippine seemed to take their foot off the pedal allowing the UAE two late tries, but unlike the Singapore game there was no risk of the boys losing this one.
This meant the Volcanoes were in the Plate Final against Chinese Taipei who had played well in a tough Pool group, losing to Japan and narrowly losing to the Ben Gollings coached Sri Lankan team. Chinese Taipei started brightly and scored first however with good lead-up work Kit Guerra went over for his first score, which was not converted. Chinese Taipei scored again, buit at 14-5 the Philippines were dominating proceedings and looked ceratin to score when Nigel Maher went over in the corner but had just put a foot on touch. From the ensuing line-out Chinese Taipei went all the way to the other end and that effectively sealed the match. Brian West scored a late try after a good kick-off receive and the final score was 33-12, meaning that the Philippines finished 6th of 12.
In summary, the Philippines won two games an lost three. Rugby Performance Consultant, Expo Mejia said "It was a good strong start to the series and represents a firm foundation upon which to build". Coach Caravelli's message was simple - he wants the team to play to their full potential. At this stage of the series, he is less interested in the results and more interested in the players executing their agreed startegies on the pitch. This Borneo Sevens, together with the Shanghai Sevens (Sep 22/23) and the Mumbai Sevens (Oct 13/14) make up the Asian Sevens Series ranking tournaments for the all important Rugby Sevens World Cup qualifying tournament in Singapore on November 2 and 3, 2012.
With the Matthews brothers and Jake Ward available for the Shanghai Sevens, an improved performance can be expected from the Philippines to keep us in the top end of the rankings for Singapore.
In the other games, Japan beat Hong Kong in the final 33-22, after trailing at half-time, and China beat Korea in the 3rd/4th match. Final rankings from the tournament were as follows:
2. Hong Kong
5. Chinese Taipei
9. Sri Lanka
Scores for the Philippines:
v Singapore 17 -14
Tries: Morris, Maher, Wolff
v South Korea 0 - 29.
v Japan 5 - 53
v UAE 19 - 17
Tries: Morris, Stern, Wolff
Conversions: Maher 2
v Chinese Taipei 12 - 33
Tries: Guerra, West
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