SEA Games: Singapore's wait for rugby gold continues, but teams at least claim silver lining

Nicholas Yau of Singapore breaks away from the pack during the SEA Games rugby final against Malaysia, on Aug 20, 2017.
Nicholas Yau of Singapore breaks away from the pack during the SEA Games rugby final against Malaysia, on Aug 20, 2017.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Singaporean and Malaysian players react after the SEA Games rugby final, on Aug 20, 2017.
Singaporean and Malaysian players react after the SEA Games rugby final, on Aug 20, 2017.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - The gold medal continued to elude Singapore’s rugby sevens teams at the SEA Games yesterday, even though the two silvers won represented their best showing at the biennial competition.

The men’s team led 7-5 early in their final against Malaysia, but eventually succumbed 7-22 to the hosts, who won the title for the first time.

The women’s team had to settle for a third straight runners-up finish, after being beaten 10-17 by two-time defending champions Thailand.

Despite missing out on gold again, both Singapore sides preferred to draw on the positives on reaching the finals.

For the men’s team, it was an improvement from their bronze-medal showings in both the 2007 and 2015 Games, the last two occasions when the sport was contested. Rugby sevens was first held at the Games in 1995.

Said men’s coach Marcus Yeo: “The boys set a goal to reach the final and we did it. I think we played good rugby throughout the tournament, and the guys have made the whole local rugby fraternity proud.

“The team played better than in the last SEA Games, and they have set a (new benchmark).”


Nicholas Yau of Singapore scores a try during the SEA Games rugby final against Malaysia on Aug 20, 2017. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

His men began yesterday with a 21-7 win over 2015 gold medallists, the Philippines, before thrashing Cambodia 70-0 in their final round-robin game to advance to the final on points difference.

Captain Marah Ishraf added: “The fact that we got into the final was already an achievement for us. 

“It was a bit unfortunate that we didn’t have much possession and they (Malaysia) held the ball longer than us. And we were probably rushing too much.

“We didn’t win the gold, but it’s okay. It’s all about the process because we’ve already put everything out there.”

As for the women’s team, they are inching their way towards ousting their nemeses, Thailand.

The narrowing scoreline in the final suggests that they are closing the gap. Singapore lost 5-19 to the Thais in the 2007 Games final, and 0-39 during the 2015 title decider.

Coach Wang Shao-Ing, who played in the 2007 Korat Games when Singapore fell 12-14 to Thailand in the round-robin stage, felt the gold was there for the taking yesterday. 

She said: “It’s the closest scoreline we’ve had between us and Thailand for many years. Just one (converted) try separated us... If we had protected the ball more and been more composed in the first half, I guess the colour of the medal would have been different and it would have been a massive upset.