Malaysia defeated Sri Lanka 22-9 to emerge champion in the Asia Rugby Championship (ARC) 2017 Division 1, at Ipoh Padang, Ipoh on Saturday, May 20.
The win means the national team, ranked 54th in the world, gets to compete in the Premiere Division with two Asian rugby giants namely, Hong Kong and Korea, in ARC 2018 for the first time in our rugby history.
The home team began with a fiery start and got its first try three minute into the play by Jone Mawara Nasalo.
No sooner as he scored, he was assigned to the sin-bin for a bad tackle this allowed Sri Lankan, Thilina Wijesinghe Gurukandure Gedara, to score two penalties giving Sri Lanka a 6-5 lead.
In between the two kicks, Malaysia lost a second player in full-back, Samuela Tamanisau. Fortunately, the send-off didn’t cost the host any points. The score remained at 6-5 till interval.
Fifteen minutes into the second half, Sri Lanka got another penalty. Gurukandure Gedara scored and guest led with 9-5. Malaysia’s Amirul Sani was yellow-carded soon after.
Urged on by a vociferous home crowd numbering over 5,000, Malaysia rebounded. Their efforts paid dividends with two dramatic tries in succession by Sakiusa Terence Gavidi and Wong Wye Wye @ Marc Lee. Both were followed by two perfect conversions by Wan Mohammad Asyraf Norudin and Muhamad Amirul Aqil Kamsol, making the score 19-9 in Malaysia’s favour.
A penalty kick at the 74-minute sealed the game for the host team. The final score stood at 22-9.
Coach Lee Nyuk Fah said the priority now is to focus on preparing the team for the Premier League.
“We’re aiming high. There’s opportunity for us to go further if we beat Hong Kong and Korea in the Premier League.
“We hope to qualify for the 2019 World Cup in Japan through the Oceania Zone playoff,” he told reporters.
Nyuk Fah said there would not be much change in the squad next year unless there are injuries.
“The core of the team is here, but we’d consider if there are any injuries.
“Malaysia have a pool of rugby players and most of them are very talented. Scouting for new players will not be a problem,” he added.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Rugby Union (MRU) president, Dato’ Shahrul Zaman Yahya said the win will help speed up the building of the new rugby stadium.
“We’ve found the location but I can’t reveal it now. Let Sports Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, announce it,” he insisted.
Blindside flanker, Dinesvaran Krisnan, said the Malaysians made many silly tackles conceding two penalty kicks in the first half.
“We’re aggressive in the first half and everyone was trying to make an impression until we forgot to work as a team.
“In the second half, made amends and stuck to our game plan and it worked,” said Dinesvaran, who turned 29, today.
In the earlier match, Philippines trashed United Arab Emirates (UAE) 34-26 to win third place. With that defeat, UAE is relegated to Division 2 of ARC 2018.