Gritty Dragons secure first Rapid Rugby win

Asia Pacific Dragons' prop Ropate Rinakama getting tackled in yesterday's Global Rapid Rugby match against the South China Tigers at the Queenstown Stadium. The Dragons won 41-26.
Asia Pacific Dragons' prop Ropate Rinakama getting tackled in yesterday's Global Rapid Rugby match against the South China Tigers at the Queenstown Stadium. The Dragons won 41-26.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

A bright start provided the foundation for Singapore-based rugby team Asia Pacific Dragons to claim their first win of the Global Rapid Rugby Asia Showcase Series as they notched a 41-26 win over the South China Tigers yesterday.

Scrumhalf Rowan Gouws needed just three minutes to score the first try for the Dragons at the Queenstown Stadium and, despite some disciplinary problems, the hosts showed plenty of spirit to hang on for a much-needed victory.

Dragons coach Ryan Martin said: "We were pretty calm and we wanted to put a performance on for Singapore. We trained really well this week, we're a bit sharper and there's heaps of energy and it came out in the way we played."

What he did not expect was a string of mistakes that almost threatened to ruin the day. The Dragons were up 24-7 in the first half and cruising when the Tigers scored a converted try and Dragons prop Ropate Rinakama collected a yellow card soon after to leave his team with 14 men and at a numerical disadvantage for 10 minutes.

After the interval, the Dragons were again a man short when outside centre Asaeli Tikoirotuma received a yellow card.

The home team's grit shone through as they managed to score a try and were awarded a penalty try and a penalty kick in the second half.Dragons captain Stacey Ili said: "This win gives us confidence. These two games are building ones for us. (Western) Force is a strong, tight group so we need to turn up next week and try to win."

Tigers coach Craig Hammond described the match as a "role reversal" as they had beaten the Dragons 29-19 in Hong Kong on April 21.

He said: "They were off to a good start so we had to play catch up. They really put it to us in the first 20 minutes and we didn't start as well as we wanted to so it was disappointing. There were plenty of opportunities in the last 20 minutes, but they scored another try in the end which took it away."

Global Rapid Rugby is the brainchild of Perth billionaire Andrew Forrest, a Western Force supporter. The Perth based team were cut from the Super Rugby along with two other weaker South African teams in 2017.

The tournament features sides from Fiji, Samoa, Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore and is aiming to expand into markets like New Zealand and Japan next year.

Sales executive Andy Watson, 52, and his daughter Jessie, 17, were part of the 1,672 mostly expatriate crowd at the Queenstown Stadium.

The Briton said: "We get the proximity to the pitch and the players and this for me is like the rugby I grew up with, it's high level and you're close to the pitch and the players. It's great for the community so I hope we build on this."

• Tickets for the Dragons' home game against Western Force on Sunday available at zoonga.com.au/globalrapidrugby.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2019, with the headline 'Gritty Dragons secure first Rapid Rugby win'. Print Edition | Subscribe