Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) swept to their third consecutive Schools National B Division rugby title on the back of a superior defensive display as they beat Raffles Institution (RI) 25-12 in the final yesterday.
Fly-half Matthew Lim signalled the defending champions' intent with a try in the first 10 minutes of the game, his slick sidestep opening up the RI defence.
But any thoughts of an onslaught were dispelled as the Rafflesians began attacking with intent and spent much of the half camped in the ACSians' half.
However, their efforts came to nought as the boys in blue and yellow swarmed over their opponents, earning a penalty and extending their lead to 8-0 before half-time.
RI responded immediately after the break with a try from captain Gideon Kee to reduce the margin to 8-5.
ACS(I), however, earned a second penalty kick - converting it to push them clear at 11-5.
But that advantage disappeared swiftly when RI's No. 8 Ray Sek scored a try before team-mate Bervyn Wong converted the extra two points to give RI a surprising 12-11 lead.
The frenzied support from the sidelines added to the fever pitch of the game, with supporters gathered at either end of the wet and muddy Physical, Sports & Outdoor Education Branch (Peseb) Stadium pitch with drums and chants. With the game moving at a fast pace, parents and die-hard supporters even assumed coaching roles as they shouted instructions to the players.
Despite being slow on the attack due to their poor passing, ACS(I) regained the lead when a series of quick exchanges opened up the play to release outside-centre Finan Siow, who burst through the flank and scored their second try.
Lam Wei Xuan settled the outcome with ACS (I)'s third and final try in the closing minutes.
After the game, the ACSians' captain said: "We were very tenacious, we spread the ball wide, pulled them in and then sent the ball out again."
RI coach Mark Lee, whose team were making their first appearance in the final since 2012, said: "In tight games, you have to take chances when the opportunity arises.
"You can play the most beautiful rugby game, but if you don't win, it won't matter."
His sentiments were echoed by ACS(I) coach Adrian Chong, who noted: "They camped in our half for a long while and I'm just happy that we didn't give away the points."