Story by Les Tan/Red Sports. Pictures by Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports, Vanessa Lim/Red Sports and reader Ben Goh.
A Kazakhstan player grabs possession of the ball at the line-out. (Photo 1 © Ben Goh)
Yio Chu Kang Stadium, Saturday, May 9, 2009 – Singapore fell 19-22 to Kazakhstan at home in their second game of the Asian 5 Nations. This was the second loss for the Singapore ruggers after their 0-65 defeat away to Korea.
Singapore almost pulled off an historic first win on the back of some good penalty kicking by John Forrester (#10) who successfully converted four out seven penalties.
A captain Ben Wheeler (#8) try in the first half and a successful conversion by Forrester had tied it up 7-7 in the first half for Singapore after Kazakhstan's Antonov Evgeny (#16) had scored a try early in the game. However, Lefontov Maxim (#15) made good on a penalty attempt to ensure Kazakhstan walked off leading 10-7 at half-time.
Singapore staged a revival in the opening stage of the second half on the back of two successful Forrester penalties. The second gave Singapore a brief 13-10 lead and hopes were raised in the stands.
However, mistakes by Singapore allowed Kazakhstan to reassert their lead when Abdrazakov Ildar broke through and dished off a pass to Cherkashin Denis to score right under the post. A successful conversion gave Kazakhstan a 17-13 lead.
Singapore kept at it and a promising attack by Singapore ended when a stiff Kazakhstan tackle saw James Valintine (#7) cough up the ball 10m from the try line. Moments later, a field goal attempt just at the 22m line by Mohd Ismail (#12) flew wide of the upright.
Another successful penalty by Forrester hauled Singapore to within a point at 16-17 and the crowd got even more excited when Forrester nailed another penalty to give his team a 19-17 lead.
With less than 10 minutes to go, a rearguard action by the Singapore team stopped Kazakhstan three times just at the try line but Guselnikov Oleg (#9) got through on the fourth time of asking.
Maxim failed to convert for Kazakhstan and Singapore now trailed only by three at 19-22 and the game was now set for a grandstand finish.
With Singapore unable to get any joy from their passing game, it fell again on the shoulders of Forrester when they earned another penalty. Opting to kick, Forrester's attempt went awry as his body cramped up on him.
A yellow card for Ildar saw him going to the sin bin to join Zakharov Alexandr (#13) and that meant Kazakhstan were playing with only 13 men for the closing stages of the game. But try as they might, Singapore could not pull off a win.
"We were not clinical enough," said Singapore's Desmond Wee (#11) after the game. "We were not executing the simple, basic stuff. The close result shows we are getting there."
On his own performance, he said: "I could have done better. I should've been on the money."
A banged up John Forrester reflected on his performance.
"Apart from the first two kicks which I missed, I was happy with it. I got into the rhythm. Shame I missed the last one," he said, confirming that his body had cramped up at the point of kicking.
Singapore next play Hong Kong on May 16th, at the Hong Kong Football Club while their next home game on May 23rd will be against the mighty Japanese.
Singapore starting lineup
Alex Muir (#1)
Gaspar Tan (#2)
Nick Dance (#3)
Chris Gilbert (#4)
Steve Horsfall (#5)
John Lee (#6)
James Valintine (#7)
Ben Wheeler (#8, captain)
Andrew Lee (#9)
John Forrester (#10)
Desmond Wee (#11)
Mohd Ismail Bin A Kadir (#12)
Ryan Cumbers (#13)
Muhd Zaki Bin Mahmood (#14)
Gareth Pritchard (#15)
Andy Douglas (#16)
Norman Sin (#17)
Andy bennett (#18)
Gabriel Lee (#19)
Tong Chin Hong (#20)
Matt Taloni (#21)
Iain McMullan (#22)
Two Singapore players try to bring down a Kazakhstan player. (Photo 2 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
Hanging on for dear life. (Photo 2 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
Singapore players try to stop the ball from going closer to the try line. (Photo 3 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
Two Kazakhstan players brings down a Singapore player. (Photo 4 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
Gaspar Tan (#2) fails to stop Antonov Evgeny (#16) of Kazakhstan from scoring the first try. (Photo 5 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
A Singapore player nursing a bloody nose after getting hit. (Photo 6 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
A Kazakhstan player sprints to the try line after receiving a pass from a team mate. (Photo 8 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
Singapore’s captain Ben Wheeler (#8) scores the only try for the team. (Photo 9 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
A Kazakhstan looks to pass to a team mate. (Photo 10 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
A Kazakhstan player challenges his Singaporean opponent for the ball. (Photo 11 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
James Valintine (Singapore, #7) fails to stop his opponent from making off with the ball. (Photo 12 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
Desmond Wee (Singapore, #11) ruthlessly takes down his opponent. (Photo 13 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
James Valintine tries to stop his Kazakhstan opponent from breaking free. (Photo 14 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
Andrew Lee (Singapore #9) passes the ball out to a team mate. (Photo 15 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
Andrew takes down his opponent. (Photo 16 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
A Singapore player gets double-teamed on a tackle. (Photo 17 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
The crowd cheers as Singapore’s John Forrester (#10) converts a penalty. (Photo 18 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
A supporter proudly waves the Singapore flag during half time. (Photo 19 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
Players from the Tanglin Rugby Club have some fun on the sideline. (Photo 20 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
Gareth Pritchard (Singapore, #15) dives to bring down his Kazakhstan opponent… (Photo 8 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
… with the help of team mate Gaspar Tan (#2). (Photo 22 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
Despite a strong defence which stopped Kazakhstan’s three attempts at the try line, Singapore could not stop Guselnikov Oleg (Kazakhstan, #9) from getting past on the fourth. (Photo 23 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
A rough tackle saw Iain McMullan (Singapore #22) being lifted up by his Kazakhstan opponent… (Photo 24 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
… and smashed into the ground neck first. (Photo 25 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
Ben Wheeler passes to Andrew Lee (Singapore, #9). (Photo 26 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
Norman Sin (Singapore, #17) holds on tightly to the ball. (Photo 27 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
A Singapore player passes to a team mate. (Photo 28 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
A small group of Kazakhstan supporters cheer their team on after the win. (Photo 29 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
A disappointed John Lee pondering about what might have been in this close game. (Photo 30 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
A Singapore player fumbles as he receives the ball. (Photo 31 © Ben Goh)
A Kazakhstan player steals possession of the ball. (Photo 32 © Ben Goh)
Ben Wheeler runs with the ball. (Photo 33 © Ben Goh)
A Kazakhstan player loses the ball as he is tackled by his Singapore opponents. (Photo 34 © Ben Goh)
Engaging in a scrum. (Photo 35 © Ben Goh)
The Singapore players recover after a try. (Photo 36 © Ben Goh)
Ryan Cumbers kicking for touch. (Photo 37 © Ben Goh)
More pictures in the gallery.