Saturday, March 14, 2009

SMU Barely Scraps Past NTU

NTU vs SMU (6th March 2009)

Location: NTU

Scoreline: 8-10

Tries: NTU Winger (1)
Penalties: Aidil

Tries: Nick Hwang (1), Alex Chew (1)

At the back of a surprise victory over arch rivals NUS, the City Boys were looking to pile on the points against NTU when the teams met in the far western obscure part of Singapore for the return leg of the tournament. The City Boys were clearly buoyed with confidence and some were saying even before the match that the title was in the bag. However deep in Boon Lay territory, NTU were training hard, quietly getting confident that they could once again outmuscle the SMU forward pack, and somehow spring a shocker for SMU.

The sun was definitely a factor as a few SMU players were complaining of a possible heat stroke during the warm-ups and some even disgracefully requested to the coach about playing only one half. Such appalling reactions from the handsomely paid superstars were confounded by NTU’s intensity in the opening 5 minutes which saw SMU’s backline under serious pressure.

SMU’s kicking game was taking a while to find its groove whilst NTU’s standoff and fullback found pin-point accuracy in their punts which resulted in an unexpected first try for the Boon Lay Warriors. The try started from SMU’s first foray into the NTU’s 22 and due to some sloppy ruck-clearing, NTU had managed to steal the ball off the ruck and they countered. Gutsy play and simple hands from NTU within their own 22 and a massive boot from their fullback saw the ball travel into SMU’s 22. SMU were clearly not prepared for such Crusaders Style of rugby from their humble counterparts and were punished when a failed clearance from SMU’s flanker Ben Teong led to a try from the NTU winger. That try definitely set the tone for the rest of the match as NTU commanded throughout the half, and for once in years looked like they were serious contenders for a victory.

With halftime approaching, clearly both sides were suffering from the punishing heat and at one point of the match; NTU’s Yik Thai Hoe was seen pleading with his coaches to take him off. Apparently the appeals had started after 5 minutes and at every breakdown, Yik was sighted waving his hands to signal a substitution, however his requests were being turned down and he was cajoled into staying on for another 10 minutes always, this led to some spectators on the sidelines including injured flanker Lionel Poh and Uncle See Hong chanting “let him go, let him go”.

Back to the game, almost at the stroke of halftime, SMU managed to turn on the style and this led to some power pick and drives from SMU’s forwards led by Number 8 DMC and the ‘beautiful’ Prop Sherman Yeo. Some serious rucking101 from NTU caused the ball to be popped out of the base of the ruck and this lead to a free for all which allowed SMU in-centre also nicknamed Nick the 'German Panzer' Hwang to scoop out the ball and barraged past 2 NTU players to score SMU’s first try of the match leveling the score at 5 a piece. The Panzer’s recent performances have caused quite a stir in the Asian Rugby Forums and some critics have said he might be a serious contender for a place in the Team of the Tournament.

In the 2nd half, SMU brought on some big guns to replace the tired legs and that led SCC’s Prems Winger Alex Chew who also recently switched compression sponsors from Skinz to Under Armour, scoring a brilliant try 10 minutes into the 2nd half. The score was then 10-5 to the City Boys. The rest of the match was anything but cruise control for the SMU team, NTU came back even harder and this frustrated some of the SMU forwards. At one point, SMU forwards were heard screaming at each other, apparently ‘le beautiful prop’ Sherman was question the commitment of his second-rows and that led to a shouting contest.

NTU camped out in the SMU’s 22 for the remainder of the match as time and again, SMU failed to find touch on their kicks which resulted in NTU keeping up the pressure on SMU. The pressure got to Referee Douglas Danapal, brother of senior referee George Danapal (if you recalled he almost had an altercation with an SMU player last year @ SMU Ringemail 7s ), and he sent off SMU’s mercurial scrumhalf Justin Lum for disrespect. Justin Lum could be heard hurling profanities at the Ref as the number 9 was given his marching orders, 10 minutes in the bin.

Within that 10 minutes with 14 men, NTU converted a penalty infront of the post. The score was 10-8. If the match had a statistic on which half of the field the game was played, it would have shown 100% in SMU’s 22. The last 20 minutes was probably SMU’s real test of defense as NTU constantly knocked on the doors. NTU received so many opportunities to steal the victory from SMU that it was as if it was Christmas already and SMU was in such charitable moods. NTU missed a penalty right infront of the post and then had what seemed like 2 confirmed tries that gone begging due to some hardcore on-the-line oh wait, after the line tackling. Tackles from the biggest man on the pitch Derek Chan and monster hits from Vicky 'Squirmy' Sellathurai and Tafadzwa L Marasha resulted in the no-tries. SMU survived the ordeal and went on to win the match 10-8.

Final Score: 10-8 to SMU

*This article was proudly brought to you by special correspondent Lionel 'the Robber' Poh

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