MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Volcanoes rallied in the second half to defeat Singapore, 32-24, and secure the first match in the Division 1 Asia Rugby Championships last weekend at the Southern Plains Sports Field.
Singapore drew first blood, thanks to an intelligent drop goal from fullback Jonathan Barber just four minutes into the match, which put the visitors on top, 3-0.
Buoyed by the home crowd, the Volcanoes quickly returned fire as debutant Sean Celada Lynch made it 5-3 in the sixth minute. While the Filipinos continued to attack deep within their own territory, a turnover allowed Team Singapore to capitalize.
Barber, in the right place at the right time, jumped on the opportunity to score his team's first try off a support play for an 8-5 Singapore lead. Back-to-back errors by the Volcanoes cost them a further six points, giving the visitors a 14-5 advantage after 23 minutes of action.
The Volcanoes answered back in the final before halftime, as halfback Joe Dawson swiped through the blindside off a scrum into an open field play to secure crucial points for the Philippines. With a successful conversion from vice captain Denny Matthews, the Philippines entered the break down just two points, 14-12.
The home team regained the lead soon in the second half, thanks to a conversion from Matthews, 15-14. The Volcanoes kept the pressure on from that point, and Dawson soon scored his second try for a 20-14 lead.
A breakaway try by winger Xavier Docournean kept Singapore in the game, and a successful conversion from Barber put the visitors ahead, 21-20, with 20 minutes to play.
However, a set of fresh legs and a strong impact off the bench kept the Volcanoes alive. Robert Fogerty, the youngest member of the squad and the fourth debutant in the match, sparked the home team with his entry to the game.
Fogerty created a much-needed break for the Volcanoes in the 72nd minute, and went on to score in front of a vocal home crowd.
"It's hard to believe to have scored on my debut," Fogerty later said. "It meant a lot."
The Volcanoes continued to draw inspiration from their home supporters, with Edlen Cortez Hernandez scoring another five-pointer off a driving maul to put the match safely into the advantage of the home team.
A late penalty goal to Singapore settled the score, 32-24, with another match to play on Tuesday.
"We were solid in defense up front, we showed heart. Our backs proved to be dominant in space," said team captain Steven Pagtalunan Howorth.
The Philippines remains in a must-win situation on Tuesday, in the second and final match of the two-match series. The winning team will be decided on a points system, with the best team over two matches gaining the title.
The Volcanoes are aiming to win the Division 1 Asian Rugby Championships on home soil for the first time since 2012.
Game time on Tuesday is at 3 p.m. at the Southern Plains in Calamba.
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