Story and pictures by Leslie Tan.
ACJC field, Saturday, January 26, 2008 – The Singapore Management University (SMU) rugby team edged out the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) 8-7 in the first game of the inaugural Tri-Universities Rugby Championship.
With NTU camping in the SMU half for most of the game, SMU managed to make their opportunities count where it mattered with a try by Daniel March Chow (#8) and a penalty kick from captain Amos Siow (#10).
From the kick-off, NTU went on the offensive and camped in the SMU half and it was only 8 minutes later that SMU managed to punt the ball upfield to relieve the pressure. NTU came right back to maintain the pressure, helped by poor kicking from SMU, but they failed to translate it into points.
In the 13th minute, SMU got an opportunity to put points on the board but Amos Siow’s penalty kick fell short. 3 minutes later, against the run of play, from a scrum inside the NTU half, Daniel Marc Chow (#8) cut through the NTU defence to put SMU. Amos Siow missed the conversion but SMU got a psychological boost with a 5-0 lead.
Daniel Thiam (#10) of NTU then had the opportunity to put three points on the board in the 24th minute but his penalty attempt failed to clear the posts. A minute later, Amos Siow found a gap in the NTU defensive line and ran a good 40m down the right flank before he was hauled down to give SMU good field position. NTU cleared the ball upfield but SMU came charging acbk, this time through Alex Chew (#11) with an extended run down the left flank. He got close but failed to get through.
Sustaining the momentum, SMU rolled forward again. Taking a pass from Chong Wei Nurn (#2), Joel Leong (#6) threatened briefly with the try line in sight. His progress came to an abrupt halt however when Yeow Kwan (#11) of NTU hit him hard chest-high to bring him down.
Just as quickly, the momentum swung back in favour of NTU. Breaking out of their defensive posture, Yeow Kwan (#11) of NTU broke clear deep in the NTU half and ran upfield for 50m. With good field position, NTU threatened through Daniel Thiam (#10) but he found the SMU defence resolute. Another NTU attack just before the half ended saw no return and SMU walked off the pitch 5-0 ahead.
The second half saw NTU camp in the SMU half but without any decisive breakthroughs. It was not until the 14th minute before NTU saw their first serious attempt when Daniel Thiam tried a drop-kick attempt but the ball did not have enough power behind it and fell short.
Then the half exploded into action in the 17th minute. Finding a lot more space to run, both sides tested each other’s defensive abilities as the play swung back and forth with possession. The exchange again saw NTU failing to translate field position into points and SMU made them pay for it when they opted to take a penalty goal. Amos Siow (#10) had enough composure from 30m out to put the ball through the posts for an 8-0 SMU lead.
SMU now saw their most sustained pressure of the second half as they camped inside the NTU 22m line. SMU hit the NTU defensive with wave after wave of attacks and Daniel Marc (#8) came close in the 26th minute but was hauled down 2m from the try line.
SMU then went a man down when they lost a player to the sin bin and it was all NTU until the final whistle. Daniel Thiam (#10), the focal point of NTU’s attacks throughout the game, exchanged passes with teammate Yeow Kwan (#11) and tore through SMU with blistering speed. Thiam offloading the ball to Sidney Kum (#13), who passed it on to Emery Ong (#23) metres from the try line but SMU held. SMU resistance finally broke from the resulting scrum when Giresh Prabhat (#23) finally broke through for a try which Thiam converted to make it 7-8. But it was too late in the game to prevent SMU from notching their first-ever 15-a-side win in a national inter-school championship.
“We were not composed enough in the SMU half,” said NTU captain Ang Tze Shien (#2) after the game. “There are many things to improve upon for the next game.”
“There are no easy wins in the tournament because we are so evenly matched,” said Amos Siow (#10), captain of the SMU team.
SMU will play their next game against the National University of Singapore (NUS) on Saturday, 4:30 p.m., February 2 at NUS. NTU will play their next game against NUS on Monday, February 11. Game time is 7:30 p.m. at a venue to be confirmed.
For all the fixtures, please visit the Groups+Fixtures page.
If you know the names of the players in the pictures, please drop it in the comments section. Thanks.