Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Match Report: NUS vs SMU

Yesterday, SMU City Boys finally made history by securing their first 15 a side win over defending champions and top seeded team NUS with a convincing victory of 23-10. It was a great result having suffered a narrow and bitter defeat to NUS in the first leg, losing 7-8.

The match was held at Raffles Institution’s artificial turf and was graced by a significantly big crowd. A lot was at stake for both sides, as SMU needed the win to stay in the contest for the championship, while NUS needed the win to seal the championship off.

At the start of the whistle, the game saw SMU trying to unsettle their opponents by switching the side they were kicking off to. The game proceeded at an intense level and never looked like slowing down. However, SMU looked like the more potent side as they had the lion's share of possession in the first half. Eager to put points on the board early in the game, SMU's outrageous 65m penalty attempt by Md Nasir fell short, while standoff Amos Siow's drop goal attempts both sailed wide.

However, after taking a more patient approach, SMU finally turned pressure into points when they were awarded a penalty for an NUS infringement. SMU's Amos Siow held his nerves and slotted the penalty to give the City Boys the much needed lead (SMU 3 NUS 0).

From the restart, it was NUS's turn to pile on the pressure and brilliant kicking by NUS standoff Andrew Lee, made good ground for them. SMU had to absorb a sustained period of pressure from NUS and showed great character to defend their lines before winning a penalty that saw them get out of their half and bail out of danger. The perseverance from the City Boys eventually paid off, when another infringement from NUS gave SMU the opportunity to take a shot at goal. Amos Siow made no mistake with the kick and extended SMU’s lead (SMU 6 NUS 0).

In the closing minutes to the first half, a break from NUS’s quick backline forced SMU to commit an infringement, from 35m out. Opting for the shot at goal, NUS’s #8 Valmiki C Nair blasted it through the post to bring the score closer at the stroke of half time. (SMU 6 NUS 3)

In the second half, the level of physicality went up a notch as SMU went back to keeping the general play tight, but a resilient NUS defense constantly held good ground. However, in the 50th min of play, SMU finally made the first touchdown of the day when SMU’s scrumhalf Josiah Goh pick the ball up from the base of the scrum, throwing a ‘textbook dummy-pass’ in the process to score a relatively easy try under the post. The scrumhalf, who took over the kicking duties from standoff Amos Siow, sliced the kick and failed to provide the extra points. (SMU 11 NUS 3).

With a reasonable lead, the City Boys were hungry for more and started to play with a lot more confidence as they started to cast their eyes for the bonus point(by scoring 4 tries). The hard work and determination was soon rewarded when SMU’s forward, Vicknesh Sellathurai scored an important try to give the SMU a further lead. Josiah Goh missed the conversion. (SMU 16 NUS 3).

With 15mins to go, the score line was looking rather imposing. However, NUS was not about to give up, skillful and quick handling freed inside-centre Thomas Zhang to run to score the easy try, however casual finishing by the former National player nearly spelled trouble when he ran into SMU’s Daniel Marc Chow, who swung a ferocious clothesline at Thomas that resulted in the ball coughing out of his hands. The referee promptly blew his whistle and awarded a Penalty Try under the post. Valmiki C Nair took the kick quickly to add the extra points to bring the margin within 6 point difference. (SMU 16 NUS 10)

At this point in the game, although the result was favoring an SMU victory, NUS were looking in good state to get the bonus point (lose within 7points) or even stage a possible comeback. But all the anxiety and worries in the SMU camp was finally put to rest, when SMU’s prop Sherman Yeo bulldozed his way to the try line to score his 2nd try of the tournament. Josiah Goh stayed relax and slotted the conversion through the post. (SMU 23 NUS 10)

The game ended shortly after, with SMU recording a famous and memorable victory that will see them go to the top of the table.

It was a big win for the City Boys and with all the games played, NUS will have to beat NTU by more than 20 points or win with a bonus point to win the Tri-Universities Championship.

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