Malaysia clawed its way to the top of Asia Rugby Championship (ARC) 2017 Division 1 table when the home team thumped Philippines 40-8 in their second game at Ipoh Padang, Ipoh on Wednesday, May 17.
The national team posted six tries from six different players beginning with Sakiusa Terence Gavidi scoring the first 17 minutes into play.
Led by captain Syahir Asraf Rosli, the Malaysians came out fighting from the beginning and raced to a 25-3 lead at interval. The initial four tries by Sakiusa Terence Gavidi, Syarif Nurhidayat Muzhaimey, Amirul Sani, and Wong Wye Wye @ Marc Le were complemented by a conversion and a penalty kick.
No sooner as the Malaysians opened accounts, Filipino Bweheni Timothy, shocked them with a penalty kick to reduce the deficit 7-3.
The Malaysians, however, were relentless in their assault till the end of the game when Dinesvaran Krisnan made a brilliant try at the 80th minute, a minute before the whistle blew.
This was followed with a conversion by Muhamad Amirul Aqil Kamsol.
Malaysia coach’s Lee Nyuk Fah was proud of his boys’ success but admitted more needs to be done when Malaysia takes on Sri Lanka, the top seed, on Saturday, May 20.
“The boys have improved and learnt a lot from the first game against United Arab Emirates (UAE), especially in ball passing.
“They made lesser mistakes and capitalised on their opposition’s weaknesses and scored big,” he told reporters after the game.
Lee is confident that that Malaysia can upset the gritty Sri Lankans in the final.
“I’m happy as we’ve avenged the defeat we suffered to the Philippines in the opening game of the same tournament last year.
“I’m confident our team can beat Sri Lanka and win the championship. Last year, we beat them (Sri Lanka) because the boys played their hearts out after losing their first game. This year it’s different, as we’ve won two morale-boosting games in succession. We’re the underdog, as Sri Lanka is ranked 42nd in the world while we’re ranked 54th. On paper, we’ve equal chances,” he remarked.
The price for winning the ARC 2017 Division 1 title is a slot in the Premier Division allowing the winner to play in Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifying rounds.
In the other match, Sri Lanka routed bottom-of-the-table, UAE 33 – 17.
Nabilah Hamudin & Ili Aqilah