Justin Coveney of the Philippines attempts to go past Sri Lanka's defense at the Philippine Sports Stadium. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Volcanoes bowed to Sri Lanka, 14-27, in the final of the Asian Rugby Championship 2015 Division 1 Saturday evening at the Philippine Sports Stadium to settle for second place.
Alexander Aronson scored on a penalty to give the Volcanoes an early lead, but Sri Lanka soon took control and built a 21-6 advantage. A Jeff Gregson try allowed the Philippines to cut into the deficit and make it 11-21 at the half.
The Volcanoes rallied in the second half and still had a chance when Aronson's penalty made it 14-21, but Sri Lanka countered with six straight points to hold the Filipinos off.
Aronson finished the game with nine points on three penalties.
"We're really disappointed as a team that we couldn't deliver a win for the country," said team captain Oliver Saunders in a message posted on the team's Facebook account.
"But in saying that, we must give credit where credit is due, and Sri Lanka played a very clinical game. They're a well-structured team, they prepared well for this tournament, and you saw a good display of that last night," he added.
With the loss, the Philippines remain in Division 1.
Sri Lanka has a chance to move to the top-tier next year should they beat the eventual third-placer in the Elite Division.
"In the last five years, we have made this team into something special," Saunders said. "I don't think you can question our spirit and our never-say-die attitude – we were still having a crack right to the end."
"In the last few minutes of a game, when you're more than seven points behind, other teams might give up. Our boys never think of that, especially when we have a home crowd cheering us on," he added.
Saunders said he and the team were thankful for the well-sized crowd at the Philippine Sports Stadium who stayed until the very end of the game.
"We are very fortunate and proud to have fans like you," he said. "This loss was very hard, but the boys showed a lot of class. They stayed and watched Sri Lanka lift that trophy."
The loss will serve as their motivation moving forward, he said.
"We'll take that in and work hard for next year, so that this doesn't happen again," he said. "We are a very proud team and we will never give up."