ACS(I) win 6th straight rugby title the hard way

ACS(I) players cheering after the team scored their second try to regain the lead - this time for good. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA
ACS(I) players cheering after the team scored their second try to regain the lead - this time for good. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Winning the A Division boys rugby title for the sixth straight year was never going to be easy for Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and their task was made even tougher after key player Elroy Jahja-Loo was sent off in the second half of yesterday's final.

Their opponents, Raffles Institution, immediately capitalised on their numerical advantage and scored a penalty kick and an unconverted try to lead 8-7 at Queenstown Stadium.

But instead of crumbling under the pressure, the defending champions dug deep and with only 14 players, responded with a try of their own through hooker Tim Nijhof.

He and his ACS(I) teammates hung on to win 14-8.

ACS(I) captain Lam Wei Xuan, 18, said the loss of inside centre Elroy was a mental blow. He added: "The yellow card caused a slight lapse in our concentration but after we conceded a try it was a wake-up call and we responded immediately.

"The pressure was really on but we just continued to play our phases and eventually we broke that wall to score the try."

The Year Six student noted: "We let the gas off a little and that was a mistake on our part but we took it back."

Ironically, it was a lack of discipline that ultimately cost Raffles the match. In the first half, inside centre Muhammad Wafiq, 18, was sent off with a yellow card and ACS(I)'s fly-half Matthew Lim, 17, scored in the 13th minute.

In the second half and soon after ACS(I)'s Tim had scored the decisive try, Raffles lost winger Ho Kai En, 18, to the sin bin.

Raffles captain Gideon Kee, 18, said: "We were unlucky. The team gave their all, really went out there and dived for each other and I think we really showed it right until the end. It was harder to defend when we were one man down but we didn't give up.

"The way this team was set up is that no one has everything but when we come together we're complete. What one person lacked another person made up for and those two players that were sent off were definitely key players."

For Tim, it was a moment to cherish.

He said: "The feeling of scoring the try is really indescribable. We were in their (Raffles) half for long periods of time and the key thing was to try to get points. At the end of the day it was a team effort and what matters is not who scored but that ACS(I) won."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2019, with the headline 'ACS(I) win 6th straight rugby title the hard way'. Print Edition | Subscribe