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Volcanoes stumble against well-oiled Sri Lanka XV



The Philippine Volcanoes fell short in the Asia Rugby Championship 2015 Division I final, losing 27-14 to Sri Lanka on a rainy Saturday evening at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan.

Although scoring the first points of the match through an Alexander Aronson penalty three minutes after kickoff, the Philippines struggled to cope with the Sri Lankans’ pacy wingers. Flyhalf Fazil Marija broke away from the chasing pack to dash home a try just inside the area. Riza Mubarak attempted to make it a 7-3 lead but failed to hit the mark in his conversion. Mubarak made up for the miss by slotting home an easy penalty near the 22 at the eighth minute mark to stretch his team’s lead to five. The Sri Lankans’ might was underlined when they scored a try 15 minutes into the match despite being a man down. Sharo Fernando was sent to the sin bin three minutes before Danushka Rantan padded Sri Lanka’s lead to an astounding 10 points with more than half of the opening period still remaining. Fortunately for the Volcanoes, the second try was also not converted.

The Filipinos looked to reduce the deficit heading into the break. Awarded a penalty within a good range, the Volcanoes had Aronson successfully strike the ball in between the posts to make it a single-digit gap between the two teams with 16 minutes to go. Yet as the Philippines drew closer, the visitors found ways to make the chase more challenging. Sri Lanka’s Dinusha Chathuranga scored a penalty to restore their lead back to 10 just a minute before the half hour mark. To make things worse for the Southeast Asians, Kamchana Ramanayaka downed the ball on the in-goal area to expand Sri Lanka’s lead to as high as 15, at 21-6. Nonetheless, the Philippines’ comeback bid was boosted by Jeff Gregson whose unconverted try in the last moments of the half made it a 21-11 Sri Lanka lead at halftime.

Similar to their dramatic extra time win versus Singapore, the Volcanoes were aiming to make a late run to steal the victory from the South Asians. For the second time in the match, Aronson’s penalty made it a one-possession game with 39 minutes still on the clock. It appeared like a lot of time to produce a try for the determined Filipinos. However, Sri Lanka tightened up their defense to make things difficult for the Philippines. With full time approaching, Sri Lanka’s Mubarak elected to score two penalties at the 67th and the 76th minutes of the game instead of going for tries to put the game away from the Volcanoes’ reach.

“It’s a tough game. Sri Lanka, they’re a very good team. They’ve been together for a long time now. They have the opportunity to train together and prepare for tournaments and I think you saw that,” said captain Oliver Saunders who also expressed his gratitude to the supporters who came to see them play. He added, “They really gave it to us tonight. They brought the game to us. They’re very clinical in their performance and the score line really reflected that.

As for next year, Saunders and the Philippine Volcanoes will brace for a tougher road in order for them to redeem their glory. “We’ve got things to work on. We’ll learn from this experience and we come back and work hard next year as a stronger outfit,” he vowed.

The Philippines will remain in Division I while Sri Lanka may be promoted to the Asian Tri Nations should they edge the last placed team of the Tri Nations tournament currently contested by Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong.

After the finals game, the Most Valuable Player of each finalist team was announced.

Sri Lanka’s MVP was Danushka Ranjan:

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Volcanoes stumble against well-oiled Sri Lanka XV

While Justin Coveney was awarded the MVP for the Philippines:

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Volcanoes stumble against well-oiled Sri Lanka XV