Singapore rugby endured a weekend of contrasting fortunes in the final leg of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series in Sri Lanka.
The women's team, who lost a host of national players to retirement after last year's SEA Games, surpassed expectations by finishing fifth among eight countries in the three-stop continental tournament. They were ranked sixth of eight in last year's edition.
For their male counterparts, however, a heartbreaking 17-22 loss to Chinese Taipei at the Racecourse International Rugby Stadium yesterday meant Singapore finished last in the series and have been relegated from the top division.
Only the top seven teams, plus the winner of the Asia Rugby Development Sevens Series in January and February, will contest next year's main series.
Said Singapore Rugby Union's general manager George Danapal: "It's disappointing to drop out of this division and it'll mean we have a busier schedule next year to try and get back into the top tier. But those extra games will be good preparation for our guys as they get ready for the SEA Games in August."
In the elimination game, Singapore built up an early 10-0 lead but were pegged back by the Taiwanese, who replied with three tries to lead 17-10 as full-time approached.
MIXING IT WITH ASIA'S BEST
We met many teams with different styles during this competition and were able to execute what we worked on in training and showed we could be competitive with some of the best teams in Asia.
ALVINIA OW YONG, national rugby sevens captain, on her side's displays in the Sri Lankan leg of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series.
Mohamad Ruzaini's dramatic stoppage-time try drew Singapore level and kept hopes of an escape alive within the Singapore camp.
That ended though when Yeh Wei-te forced his way through a mass of Singaporean players underneath the post to score the sudden-death winner and send Singapore crashing out.
It completed a disappointing series for the Republic. Across 15 matches over stops in Hong Kong (Sept 2-3), South Korea (Sept 24-25) and Sri Lanka, they won just two games. They lost the rest by a combined score of 420-74.
The future seems rosier for the Republic's women. They defeated Sri Lanka 12-7 in yesterday's Plate final thanks to a sudden-death try from Ong Pei Yi.
It was their third straight Plate trophy of the series and a confidence booster ahead of next year's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Japan and Hong Kong were the women's and men's series champions respectively.
Singapore had won a women's rugby sevens silver at last year's Games on home soil and national captain Alvinia Ow Yong is determined to go one better in Malaysia.
She said: "We met many teams with different styles during this competition and were able to execute what we worked on in training and showed we could be competitive with some of the best teams in Asia."
Ow Yong was one of only four survivors from last year's Games squad of 12 players and national coach Wang Shao-Ing was delighted with her charges' efforts.
She said: "It's been a rebuilding process after the SEA Games but the girls have worked really hard and showed a lot of guts out there on the field."