India hold off brave Guam challenge to win D3 final

 

India outlasted Guam to win the Division III Final, advance to next stage of RWC 2015 qualification

 

India held off a brave challenge from Guam to win today’s HSBC Asian 5 Nations (HSBC A5N) Division III final 18-16. Today’s result secures India’s return to the HSBC A5N Division II tournament in 2013. 

 

As this week’s HSBC A5N Division II and III are doubling as the first stage of Asian qualification for Rugby World Cup 2015 in England, India will now have the right to play versus tomorrow’s Division II winner for a chance at promotion to Division I for 2013.  Next year’s Asian qualifiers for RWC 2015 will be the Division I and Top 5 competition of the HSBC A5N.  Tomorrow’s Division II final kicks off at 16.30 at Stadium Kelana Jaya between top seeds Malaysia and Thailand.

 

But India will need to tighten up key aspects of their game as they barely eked out a win over Guam, who were two men down for large swathes of the second half.

 

Guam will rue a slow start today that gave India a 15-point lead in the first 20 minutes.  India’s first half scoring came through a penalty try awarded for repeated infringements and a conversion and two penalties to India fullback Sethna Rohaan.

 

Guam’s first points came through the boot of centre Gerard Aguon who slotted a penalty in the 14th minute to bring Guam to 3-7. The highlight of the day for India was a great individual effort from wing Vikas Khatri who scythed his way through the Guam defence for a beautiful try.  A second penalty to Aguon saw the scoreline read 18-6 at halftime.

 

Undaunted, Guam came out charging in the second half and looked to be the stronger side for much of the last 40 minutes, keeping India off the scoreboard while posting 13 points.

 

Consistent pressure saw Guam post the first points of the second half with a penalty to Aguon that halved the deficit at 18-9.  Guam was looking on track for its first ever Division III final victory, when flanker Robert Leon Guerrero was shown a red card for stamping in the 60th minute.

 

Being a man down didn’t dent Guam’s self-belief as the team continued to opt for, and win, scrums despite being a man down in the pack.  In the 65th minute, Guam was rewarded for their sensational effort with a try to Paul Eustaquio, one of the outstanding players of the tournament who has been consistently dangerous with ball in hand. Aguon’s conversion brought Guam to within two points of a sensational comeback at 16-18.  But the fairytale came to an untimely end, as Eustaquio was shown a yellow card in the 74th minute, leaving Guam down two men as time expired.

 

India will now return to Division II next season after being demoted in 2011 in the same competition in Bangkok.  Later this year, India will also have a chance to leapfrog a division as they face the winner of tomorrow’s Division II final between Malaysia and Thailand for a chance at straight promotion to Division I as part of the Asian qualification process for the Rugby World Cup 2015.

 

A relieved India captain Nasser Hussain said, “We got the start we wanted but we lost our way in the second half. Full credit to Guam they never gave up and it went all the way down to the wire. We were a bit lucky that we managed to get the bumper points we needed early on. But for now, we are just excited that we have a chance to at least dream of getting to the Rugby World Cup. We were in Division II last season so we are confident of our chances in the play-off against tomorrow’s winner.”

 

Guam coach Willie Heteraka said, “We want to thank HSBC and the IRB for giving us this opportunity to shoot for the Rugby World Cup, it is every player’s dream and unfortunately ours didn’t quite come true today.

 

“Our discipline early on was not what it should have been. We gave up too many points and left ourselves a hole to dig out of. But it is just too difficult when you are playing 13 against 15. In saying that, our boys showed huge heart to get us into the position where we had an opportunity to win. We had a late penalty which went just wide, but that’s rugby. I take my hat off to the guys for their effort and for the way they handled the disappointment of today’s result. We will be back again next year and narrowing down what we need to do to win promotion for the first time.”

 

Today’s Division III 3rd/4th place match saw a re-match of the same opponents in 2011, Indonesia and Pakistan.  Last year in Jakarta, Indonesia sealed a memorable win as flyhalf Kirk Arundale crossed over for the winning try at the hooter.  This year, the excitement was replaced by a stolid encounter, marred by the hot and humid conditions.  Ultimately, Indonesia held on to win a tight match, 13-7. 

 

Indonesia winger Askar scored the only points of the first half with a try in the 12th minute leaving the score 5-0 at the half. In a stop-start match marred by a high penalty count against both teams, it was fitting that the first points of the second half came through a penalty. Indonesian scrumhalf Arundale was on target, giving Indonesia an 8-0 lead.  

 

With the game still in the balance, it was up to Indonesian flanker Daniel Nugroho, in his first tournament as team captain, to take the reigns. He did so with aplomb, crashing over for a vital try in the 65th minute to pull Indonesia further ahead 13-0.

 

Pakistan threw everything into their attack but never really threatened the scoreline.  Ultimately they picked up a consolation try in the 80th minute through reserve Tahir Rafi. The conversion by Fiaz Ahmed was successful bringing the final score to 13-7.  Indonesia is now assured of staying in Division III next season, while Pakistan will face relegation to Division IV.

 

Indonesia coach Jamie Johnston conceded it was “a scrappy match but it was very hard fought in these conditions. We have a fantastic group of players playing for each other out there and I think we wanted it just that much more than Pakistan; but all credit to them they never relented.”

 

HSBC A5N DIVISION II FINALS

Tomorrow’s HSBC A5N Division II action will see hosts and top seeds Malaysia take on second seeds Thailand in a battle of familiar foes. The relegation match will be played between Iran and last year’s Division III champions China.  HSBC A5N Division II match action kicks off at 14.30 with the 3rd/4th place play-off, followed by the Division II final at 16.30.  Entrance to all of the matches is free.

 

HSBC ARFU COACHING TOUR ACTIVITY

Tomorrow morning at Stadium Kelana Jaya, the HSBC Asian 5 Nations will conclude its week-long HSBC ARFU Grassroots Coaching Tour activities with a special rugby clinic for over 200 members from the local HSBC staff, followed by a joint clinic with HSBC staff and over 150 youth from the Royal Selangor Club and Bintang Rugby Club’s youths sections and five charities from the Malaysia Australia New Zealand Association (MANZA).

 

HSBC ARFU Grassroots coaches and members of the Guam and India teams will serve as guest coaches for the session, which marks the largest single HSBC – ARFU grassroots coaching event in the five-year history of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations.  

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