Yio Chu Kang Stadium, Saturday, August 24, 2013 – Local rugby fans had been waiting for three years for this day. Singapore prop Reiner Leong? He had been waiting for this moment for 14 years.
In the first international test match played on Singapore soil since 2010, Leong scored three tries to help the home team defeat Chinese Taipei 30–19 on Saturday to cap off a successful Asian Tri Nations tournament. The victory helped the Republic leapfrog their opponents and the Philippines to jump from 58th to 56th in the world rankings.
The Asian Tri Nations tournament made a comeback 14 years after its inaugural edition in 1999 – which Leong followed closely as a schoolboy.
“I remember watching this as a kid when I started rugby and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I could play for the Singapore team?’” Leong said. “And my chance is now.”
The win helped Singapore bounce back from its 35-25 defeat against the tournament’s other team, the Hong Kong ‘A’ selection squad.
Saturday’s clash against Chinese Taipei, played before 2,000 boisterous home fans, proved to be an equally hard-fought affair, with the visitors opening the scoring with a try in the seventh minute. Leong helped Singapore tie the score with his first try in the 23rd minute, and he struck again right before the half-time whistle to help the home team enter the intermission with a 12–7 lead.
Leong, who started the match from the bench, completed his hat-trick in the 55th minute, breaking through from a scrum right at the goal line to give Singapore a 17–7 lead.
The 27-year-old has now scored four tries in his three international caps.
“This wouldn’t have happened if the team hadn’t worked together,” Leong said. “I can’t take credit for the tries. All I can do is give credit to the team for giving me the tries.”
Chinese Taipei, however, refused to capitulate, scoring a quick try to get to within three points. Lock Gabriel Lee pushed Singapore’s lead to 25–14 with a try in the 68th minute, but again, Chinese Taipei responded quickly with a try of its own. It took a Peter McFeeley try with four minutes remaining to give Singapore some breathing room and account for the final 30–19 scoreline.
“It was a good performance from the team,” said Inoke Afeaki, Singapore’s technical director. “There was plenty of outstanding rugby played on both sides. We’ve just begun to scratch the surface of how we can play as a team.”
Saturday’s triumph capped a successful couple of months for the Singapore Reds, who edged Malaysia 20-17 to capture the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Division 2 crown in June and earn promotion to the tournament’s prestigious Division 1 in 2014.
James Robertson (#1, Loose Head Prop), Gaspar Tan (#2, Hooker), Dirk Erik Vis (#3, Tight Head Prop), Robert Hewitson (#4, Lock), Daniel Marc Chow (#5, Lock, captain), Murray Wyllie (#6, Blind Side Flanker), Simon Etheredge (#7, Open Side Flanker), Peter McFeely (#8. Number 8), Mohammad Suhaimi bin Amran (#9, Half Back), Marah Fahmy Hoessein (#10, Stand Off), Bryan Ng (#11, Left Wing), Andrew Bourke (#12, Inside Centre), Samuel Lau (#13, Outside Centre), Nicholas Alexander Groen (#14, Right Wing), Muhammad Zaki bin Mahmood (#15, Full back)
Reserves: Reiner Leong (#16, Front Row), Javin Singh (#17, Front Row), Matthew Head (#18, Front Row), Gabriel Lee (#19, Second Row), Jonathan Lee (#20, Third Row), Mohammad Saifuluddin bin Mohammad Khalid (#21, Inside Back), Mashrul Hadi bin Hanafi (#22, Midfield), Sidney Kumar (#23, Outside Back)
Chinese Taipei Lineup
Chung Cheng En, Tsen Yu-Chi, Yeh Tai-Ting, Chung Kang Lin, Chiang Chieh-Yu, Hsu Che Hsuan, Tsai Cheng Hsuan, Chiu Min-Ching, Chen Chih Cheng, Chu Chih-Wei, Wei Li-Han, Hsu Li-Hsun, Chou Chih-Hsien, Lin Chun Nan, Yu Teng-Huang
Reserves: Chen Tsung Wei, Cheng Po-Wen Wu, Nan-Yi, Ko Jui-Yu, Hsueh Yuan-Che, Chang Cheng-Chi, Sun Hsin-Fu