Rugby: Singapore sevens team upbeat despite opening defeat

Singapore prop Sidney Kumar shrugging off Casuarina Cougars' Andrew Tobin during their Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens match yesterday. The Cougars won 32-12.
Singapore prop Sidney Kumar shrugging off Casuarina Cougars' Andrew Tobin during their Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens match yesterday. The Cougars won 32-12.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Going into their opening game of the Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens (SCC 7s) yesterday, the Singapore team knew they would be facing opponents who were bigger, taller and stronger than them.

Hence, they came prepared and were not completely mauled by Australian side Casuarina Cougars, even though the Republic lost 12-32.

While the contest at the Padang looked like it would turn out to be one-way traffic when the Cougars raced to a 17-0 lead in the first half, Singapore managed two tries in the second half through forward Muhammad Zaki and vice-captain Nicholas Yau.

National coach Ismail Kadir, 39, said his players needed time to adjust and get used to their opponents' build.

He said: "It took a lot more energy for us to tackle them to bring them down, so I think that wore us down a little."

He gave credit to the players for sticking to the game plan, while pointing out that in the past, the scoreline would have been uglier than yesterday's margin.

"We know that when facing these bigger players, we cannot take them head-on," said Ismail, who has been coaching the team since 2014. "We played according to our structures by forcing them to make mistakes and to put pressure on them with our line speed, closing them down on their defence, and not to give them options to play the ball.

"It's a good challenge for us because we are not a professional team and we're playing against some of them who are professional players. All of our players have the knowledge to play, but the challenge is to perform on the field.

"We'll definitely perform better over the weekend."

Captain Marah Ishraf was pleased with how his team executed the game plan and is optimistic about better performances in their next few games.

They will take on another Australian side in Palmyra Rugby Union Club, followed by Tamariva Rugby Football Club of Japan in their next two pool matches today.

He said: "We tried to take them on the flanks, and we had the confidence to attack. But we need to be more clinical, which is something we've got to improve on in our next few games."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore sevens team upbeat despite opening defeat'. Print Edition | Subscribe