The Philippine National Development team came out firing against the Hong Kong Tertiary Select team in the Final of the Development Series. The game was played at the RECS Sports Facility in St. Cruz Laguna and Governor Ejercito was proud to host the International Game at the RECS Complex Field.
After suffering a 48 – 7 points loss on Wednesday the Philippines showed that they can take on their top- level opponents from Hong Kong and came out in the second game with a renewed confidence and passion to play the game in the face of their opponents. The Philippines had implemented a drift style defense in Wednesday‘s game and this allowed the evasive Hong Kong backline the time to move the ball wide and attack at will. The Philippines changed the defensive line to a man-on-man pattern and Jon Morales, Andrew Wolff, Tim Bwehemi and Eric Tai all looked more comfortable playing in the face of the opposition.
Hong Kong looked like they would repeat their game from Wednesday and opened the scoring with a wide attacking play that ended with their winger scoring in the corner to take a 5 – 0 lead. To the Philippines credit they then stepped up their defense and held Hong Kong scoreless for the remainder of the first half. At the 25th minute mark it was Eric Tai who exploded into the game tackling his opposition winger and was able to turn the ball over. Andrew Wolff swooped onto the loose ball and broke through the first line of defense to run 80 m to score the opening points for the Philippines. The crowd from Sta. Cruz were ecstatic and the cheering certainly helped to lift the spirits of the Philippine team.
For the last 10 minutes of the first half, Hong Kong then threatened the Philippines line and somehow the Philippines made several try saving tackles to hold out the Hong Kong attack and the first half finished at 5 all.
The second half was as intense as the first and Philippines had turned around the game from Wednesday’s loss to seeing a victory in their sights. Hong Kong still had a distinct advantage in the set plays, winning all their own scrums and lineouts and this is where the Philippines struggled in the second half. Once again the Philippines were forced to defend in their own half and this eventually led to the Hong Kong’s second try when the Philippines were not able to control a high midfield kick and Hong Kong threw the ball to find one of their props rampaging out wide and he ran 20m to give the Hong Kong the vital lead in the 30th minute of the second half.
The Philippines had their chances late in the game and were able to attack the Hong Kong line without success, this pressure eventually led to Hong Kong giving up a penalty and this was converted by Danny Williams to enter the last 5 minutes of the game at 10 – 8. The game hung in the balance and the Philippines had proved that they were equal of their development counterparts. With two minutes left on the clock Hong Kong were able to break away from some tired defense and scored out wide to win the game and the Asian Development Series by 15 – 8.
The Philippine Development team only started in January 2011 and have now proven to themselves and Hong Kong that they can play Rugby Union at the International Level and have made a pact to improve in 2012. Kit Guerra was awarded the Philippines Most Valuable player award and was well supported by Jaime Zobel, John Oduilo and Andrew Wolff.
The Philippine National Development are due to play against the Sabah Rugby Union this October in the second game of the home and away series. Stay tuned for the date and venue.
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