Justin Coveney of the Philippines attempts to go past Sri Lanka's defense during their finals match of the Division 1, Asian Rugby Championship held at the Philippine Sports Stadium on May 9, 2014. Sri Lanka defeated the Philippines, 27-14 to claim the Division 1, Asian Rugby Championship. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines - As supporters chanted "Vol-ca-noes, Vol-canoes" and applauded them for their spirited effort in a losing match to Sri Lanka in the Asian Rugby Championship Division 1 finals Saturday night, the Philippine men's rugby team waved back with promise to be back and stronger after this episode.
“We’ll bounce back. It’s not over for us. Rugby is a team sport. It’s not always about teams that consistently win but you’ll lose some games; it’s about bouncing back and being able to showcase resilience,” veteran Jake Letts said after the top-seeded Volcanoes fell to the No. 2 Tuskers, 14-27.
It was the first time in three meetings that the Volcanoes bowed to the Tuskers, who have become their fierce rivals in the Asian scene. The Pinoys prevailed in the Asian 5 Nation Division 1 three years ago, 28-18, at Rizal Memorial, and repeated in the A5N last year in Sri Lanka’s home stadium, 26-25, before the South Asians broke through in Bulacan.
“We’ll reflect on the game. It’s a learning curve but in saying that, we’ll face them again next year and we’ll definitely take it to them. It’s gonna be a rivalry like that of Pacquiao-Marquez. They’ve had four fights, we’ve got three now. We’re up one so the next one’s gonna be a cracker,” Letts said.
Volcanoes coach Stu Woodhouse said the team did well in the two-day competition despite limited training time.
“Unfortunately, we’re only together for 2-3 weeks. You can’t build on a group that only comes together for three weeks, try to win a tournament. These guys (Sri Lankans) live together in the same country; we, unfortunately, have boys all over, not only from Manila, but from America, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Saying that, we haven’t lost any ground; we put in a positive one today,” he said.
Letts and some of his ARC teammates won’t be resting long as they gear up for the Volcanoes’ gold-medal mission in the rugby sevens event of the Southeast Asian games in Singapore next month.
“SEA Games is up next. It’s a sevens competition so different format, lot quicker, lot shorter, very exciting. Of course with support, we’re gonna get the gold medal,” Letts said.
Phl is the top-ranked team among the SEAG aspirants and was the gold medalist the first time rugby sevens was held in the 2005 edition in Manila. Thailand won the mint the last time the event was calendared in the SEAG in 2007 and the Volcanoes are eager to get top honors back.
Read more on The Philippine Star.