School sports

Saints nick it at the end

Left: St Andrew's Umar Mohamed Sha'ari trying to stay on his feet after being tackled. Below: St Andrew's players and supporters celebrating after their team beat ACS(I) 13-10 in yesterday's B Division final at Queenstown Stadium.
St Andrew's Umar Mohamed Sha'ari trying to stay on his feet after being tackled. ST PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Fly-half's late penalty breaks deadlock to give team first B Division rugby crown since 2014

After missing his last two penalty kicks, St Andrew's Secondary fly-half Nick Nijhof was filled with doubt as he set up for his third.

It did not help that the score was tied at 10-10 against three-time defending champions Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and there were just minutes left in the Schools B Division rugby final at Queenstown Stadium yesterday.

But a timely pep talk from captain Mika'il Yue Istiandra helped calm his nerves. Taking deep breaths and a sip of Gatorade, Nick scored the winning penalty to secure a 13-10 victory for Saints and send the hundreds of supporters dressed in blue and white into delirium as they celebrated their first title since 2014.

The 16-year-old Nick had scored all his team's points and was delighted. The Secondary 4 student said: "After I missed the two kicks I was really quite demoralised, but my captain told me to breathe and not to worry as he knew it would go in, and it did.

"I was really pumped up after the kick went in and when the referee blew the final whistle, it just felt like a dream come true."

The closely contested affair saw the perennial rivals exchange leads several times.


St Andrew's players and supporters celebrating after their team beat ACS(I) 13-10 in yesterday's B Division final at Queenstown Stadium. ST PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR

ACS(I) drew first blood in the 15th minute with a try by second row Noah Tan. But their opponents responded with a try and successful conversion 10 minutes later for a 7-5 advantage at half -time.

The Saints extended their lead with Nick's penalty soon after the restart but that disappeared when ACS(I) centre Ryan Tan cut through their defence for a try to level the scores. It remained tense until Nick's last-gasp winner.

Having lost to Raffles Institution in last year's semi-finals, Mika'il said the painful defeat spurred his team to train harder this season.

"We really played our best, none of us gave up and we showed everyone why we are Saints," said the Sec 4 student.

Saints coach Simon Etheredge was thrilled with his boys' performance. He said: "ACS(I) had a really good game plan, they tried to nullify our attack but we stuck to ours and held our nerves to win."

SPECIAL FEELING

I was really pumped up after the kick went in and when the referee blew the final whistle, it just felt like a dream come true.

NICK NIJHOF, who scored all his team's 13 points through a converted try and two penalties.

ACS(I) captain Matthew Lim was gracious in defeat and praised his opponents. The 16-year-old was proud of his team for "sticking together till the end" and said: "We put our bodies on the line and played our hearts out so there are no regrets at all."

With a well-deserved gold around his neck, Nick was all smiles as he posed for pictures with his team-mates and parents.

"This is my first and last gold medal in Saints as it is my final year, so it means a lot to me and the boys," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2018, with the headline 'Saints nick it at the end'. Print Edition | Subscribe