Rugby: Singapore blow first-half lead against Sri Lanka

The Singapore rugby team in action against Sri Lanka at the Asia Rugby Championship in Malaysia.
The Singapore rugby team in action against Sri Lanka at the Asia Rugby Championship in Malaysia.PHOTO: SRI LANKA RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION/ FACEBOOK

For 40 minutes of yesterday's opening match of the Asia Rugby Championship Division I, everything was going to plan for Singapore as they held a surprise 17-15 half-time lead over tournament favourites Sri Lanka.

The Republic's forwards were relentless in their tackles and winger Jay-Hykel Jailani and No. 8 Peter McFeely capitalised on mistakes to score tries at the Royal Selangor Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.

But the Sri Lankans, ranked 38th in the world, 21 spots higher than their opponents, stamped their class on the game's second half with 18 unanswered points to seal a 33-17 comeback victory.

Nevertheless, there were enough positives for Singapore head coach Inoke Afeaki to reflect on as he prepares his team to face world No. 54 Philippines on Wednesday.

Said the former Tonga international: "We didn't cash in on the good work from the first half. Our rhythm and defensive work were a bit off. We lost several line-outs in a row and allowed Sri Lanka too much of the ball."

The South Asians' ability to move the ball quickly and stretch the play to both flanks proved decisive as Singapore began to tire after the break while the heavy rain and soggy pitch did not help matters.

Inside-centre Kanchana Ramanayaka's clever pass to team-mate Sandun Herath in the 52nd minute created space on the far side for the winger to score as Sri Lanka regained the lead.

Full-back Riza Mubarak added two penalties before a stunning try from flanker Jason Dissanayake, who collected a pass inside his half and skipped past several tackles before scoring to complete the turnaround for Sri Lanka.

The Philippines defeated world No. 58 Malaysia 15-10 in yesterday's second game.

Originally scheduled to compete in Division 2 after they were relegated last year, Singapore were subsequently invited to the round-robin tournament in Malaysia after Kazakhstan's late withdrawal.

Singapore might be the lowest-ranked side but after yesterday's performance, they have nothing to fear, noted Afeaki.

He added: "We've blown our cover as underdogs. We showed our quality and no one is going to look at us as an easy team to play."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore blow first-half lead against Sri Lanka'. Print Edition | Subscribe