MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Volcanoes outlasted Sri Lanka in a nip and tuck duel on the road, converting a try in the very last play to hack out a thrilling come-from-behind 26-25 victory Saturday in the Asian 5 Nations tournament in Colombo.
Down 19-25 in the 86th minute (injury time) and with a hostile crowd jeering, the Volcanoes willed themselves back and erupted mightily at the finish to turn the tables around.
Seeing an opening, scrum-half Jake Letts quickly took advantage of the situation to drive the ball over the Tuskers forward pack for a try that put the visitors within a point at 24-25..
Fly half Alex Aronson was tasked to convert the try and get an additional two points but failed to find the mark. However, the referee declared that Sri Lankans charged towards the Phl kicker too early and ordered a re-kick.
Aronson gratefully launched his second attempt from 23 meters and was successful this time, allowing the Volcanoes to snatch victory from the clutches of defeat and complete one of the most dramatic finishes in the sport.
“Our boys showed a lot of resilience and character. I’m very proud of our team for never giving up. The culture and brotherhood that the Volcanoes have is something special to be a part of. It’s great to finally give our supporters a win,” said captain Oliver Saunders.
It was the maiden win for the Volcanoes in the A5N series after losses to powerhouse Hong Kong and Japan, ensuring they won’t finish at the bottom of the top division in 2014.
The Volcanoes try to bring the momentum over to their next game, their final outing in the series, against South Korea on Saturday at their home turf, Southern Plains Field in Laguna.
Phl and Sri Lanka played a seesaw match the entire game, with the Volcanoes emerging with a 19-17 upperhand at the end of the first half, courtesy of tries from David Feeney, Steve Howorth and two conversions by Saunders.
A try from an unlucky bounce and a converted penalty kick gave Sri Lanka the lead in the second half even as the Volcanoes also failed to capitalize when one of the Tuskers got sent off the field with a yellow card.
Then came the late game heroics of Letts and Aronson.
“It just happened so quickly,” said Letts, the Volcanoes’ most capped player. “I saw a little gap and was able to dart through. The next thing I remember, I was forcing myself to score the try. I was worried that I would lose the ball. Luckily, I didn’t.”