Alexander Aronson scored 13 points off the bench to give the Philippine National Rugby Team, fondly known as the Volcanoes, an extra time 20-17 victory against the gallant Southeast Asian neighbours Singapore on Wednesday night at the Philippine Sports Stadium.
The reserve flyhalf registered his first points with a penalty conversion six minutes from time, drawing the Philippines within seven points at 17-10. He made sure that his first points were not in vain by grounding a try near the middle in borrowed time of the second half and eventually converting an easy penalty kick, much to the delight of the Filipino crowd in attendance.
“Just relax, trust the pattern and execute,” Aronson thought when his team was down by double digits late in the second half. Before he went into action, Singapore scored two unconverted tries in the first half courtesy of Alexander Cook and Tom Child. Valette opened the scoring 15 minutes in by successfully charging down Oliver Saunders’ intended forward kick. Three minutes before the half, Child downed the ball onto the in-goal area. Fortunately for the home team, Suhaimi Bin Amran Mohammed’s conversions were fruitless, keeping the Filipinos down by 10 instead of at least 12 at the half. It looked like a deserved lead for the visitors as they were able to assert control in the opening 40 minutes of the match.
The Volcanoes went to the second half with more urgency as they aimed to cut down the lead as soon as possible. In the midst of the Filipinos’ surge, Graham Harkness was booked and thus was sent to the sin bin. As a result, Singapore had to play a man down for the next 10 minutes. Inside their opponents’ territory, the Philippines capitalized with Terrence Carroll finding a gap to score a try at the 45th minute. From an easy range, Saunders managed to convert his first kick to make it 10-7. After that, Singapore looked to restore the advantage by expertly winning balls off rucks inside the Philippine half. With only 14 minutes left on the clock, the Singaporeans appeared to march their way towards a shocking win over the much favoured squad. Michael Carne brought the ball down just inside the area to make it 15-7. What made it seem more apparent is the conversion of Mohammed to effectively cancel the Volcanoes’ points just before Aronson’s heroics.
With the game going to a golden period of two extra time halves, either team only needed to score the first points — be it a try, penalty, or a drop goal—to emerge triumphant. Singapore nearly grabbed the victory in the first period of extra time but the defiant defense of the Volcanoes were enough to burn time with the score still level. In the succeeding half, the crowd cheered on their rugby idols with the hopes of claiming the points before the Singaporeans. After earning a penalty inside the 22, the Volcanoes elected to give it a go from the spot into the goal. Aronson, who was the main reason why the Philippines were playing in extra time, calmly swung the ball perfectly to give his team a dramatic victory.
“I saw a little bit of space and we wanted to score in the middle so it will be an easier kick. Jake gave me a great pass [before the try],” Aronson described the crucial last-gasp try in normal time. He also shared that he felt nervous in taking what was the last kick of the match. “There are always nerves in big moments like that. I just relaxed and trust my routine,” Aronson narrated. With the result, the Volcanoes will play against the Sri Lankans, who posted a lopsided 35-14 victory earlier against Kazakhstan, on Saturday evening. Meanwhile, the Singaporeans will challenge the Kazakhs in order to stay in Division I rugby next year. Kickoff of that affair will be at 4:00 in the afternoon.