Sunday, March 2, 2008

SMU crowned champions in finale

In a tournament that promised to be closely matched, the ending was dramatic all the way to the finish. Yesterday NUS won NTU by 17-7, but had to settle for 2nd place as they lost to SMU on a count-back by differences in points scored and conceded (they were both tied with 10 points in the league).

In the first half, NUS got off to a flying start, making numerous line breaks through their centre Muhd A'srie, but poor finishing let them down and repeatedly gave NTU a bit of respite and opportunity to clear their lines to keep the score at a deadlock. NUS always look like the more dangerous side, as they looked to have thrown all caution into the wind and were showing clear signs of going for the bonus point, by scoring 4 tries against NTU. When awarded penalties, the team opted for line outs, scrums and quick-taps, rather than putting points on the board.

The open and ‘flair-ish’ play entertained the crowd and kept every one on their toes. However, the adventurous play didn't look to have paid off as poor finishing and solid defending from NTU, kept the half time score at 5-0, courtesy of NUS prop Kenny Chan, diving over the line to score a close range try, just before half time.

After the break, NUS continued to dominate the game and were finally rewarded with a well worked try from skipper and winger Shafiq Zulazmi. Valmiki C Nair's conversion was wide and kept the score at 10-0. Shortly after the restart, NUS were back in control quickly and a clever kick in open play from Valmiki C Nair, put NTU's winger Emery Ong in all sorts of pressure, with the NUS backline closing down the space quickly, Emery 'punched' the ball out of touch just before the try-line, leaving the referee with no choice, but to award a penalty and sin-binnd Ong for the professional foul.

Instead of taking the points, NUS opted for the scrum and were duly rewarded with a try from Kenny Chan, who dived over the line for a try under the post to record his second of the match. The prop was evidently pleased with his contribution and ran up to the half way line in his celebration and took a gentleman's bow to the crowd as they cheered and applauded him. NUS's kicker Valmiki made the extra point count and brought the score to 17-0.

In need of one more try or 4 more points to secure the championship, the defending champions looked like they had this in the bag. However, NTU had other ideas and began their quest to spoil the party.

From the restart, the Boon Lay Warriors began to play with a bit more spirit and intensity as they stood up to the challenge and slowly muscled their way and put NUS on the back-feet. With good retention of the ball and forward play, the Boon Lay Warriors, finally managed to put points on the board when centre Kevin Ang battled his way through to score a try. The conversion was good and it brought the game to an interesting scoreline of 17-7 (Note: NUS needed to win NTU by a margin of 20 points or win NTU by scoring 4 tries or more to win the overall championship).

With Emery Ong returning back in the sin-bin, ill discipline by NTU saw 2 of their forwards taking their place in the sin-bin, leaving NTU to battle the closing minutes with 13 men.

With outstanding performances by NTU’s Yik Thai Hoe and Daniel Thiam, the Boon Lay Warriors held the fort, until a break from Thomas Zhang from his own 22metre line, sparked off a brilliant counter-attack. The break saw the ball move through the lightning quick NUS backline, putting their winger into ample of space. With only the NTU’s winger, Emery Ong to beat, the winger was taken down by Ong that saved NTU from conceding another try and brought the game to a close after the move broke down from a knock-on by NUS – handing SMU it’s first ever 15 a side championship.
Scoreline: 17-7

Tries: Kenny Chan (2), Shafiq Zulazmi (1)
Conversion: Valmiki C Nair (1)

Tries: Kevin Ang (1)
Conversion: Jelvin Soh (1)

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