School Sports

Saints snatch rugby title

James' late try helps St Andrew's regain C Division crown, denies ACS(I) title treble

James Leow of St Andrew's sprints clear to score the winning try against ACS(I) in the Schools National C Division rugby final yesterday.
James Leow of St Andrew's sprints clear to score the winning try against ACS(I) in the Schools National C Division rugby final yesterday.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Just eight minutes remained on the clock. And St Andrew's Secondary were trailing old rivals Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) 13-15 in a see-saw Schools National C Division rugby final.

Amid the frantic pressing from both sides, a gap opened up and James Leow grabbed the opportunity gratefully.

Seizing a pass by captain Umar Mohamed Sha'ari, the flanker sprinted 15 metres past two defenders to score a try - and give the Saints their first C Division title since 2013.

The 18-15 result also denied ACS(I) the treble of A, B and C Division titles.

"It's special because it's a try that won the championship for our school. I will remember every detail about it for the rest of my life," said Secondary 2 student James, who started playing the game only in Primary 6 but hopes to become a member of the the national team.

He has a bright future in the sport, noted St Andrew's coach Nicholas Dance. He explained that James possesses the ability to find gaps to break through the opponents' line of defence.

Added Dance: "He's one of the players whom we can count on to make an impact.

"He's got the pace, and when he saw an exposed space, he went for it and made a break."

St Andrew's had entered the final in dominant form. They won all their matches in the competition, including a 15-12 victory over their perennial rivals when the competition kicked off on July 6.

They had also outscored ACS(I) 245-184 in total points scored throughout the competition.

Despite being cheered on by more than 600 boisterous supporters including schoolmates, old boys and family members who packed the stands at the Home Team Academy, the Saints got off to a slow start.

Backed by tries from Richard Goo and Elroy Jahja-Loo, ACS(I) established the momentum and led 12-6 going into the interval.

But they picked up two yellow cards in the 43rd and 44th minutes - for a high tackle and repeated offside offence respectively - which saw Joshua Tan and Richard sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes.

The Saints made full use of their numerical superiority. In the 45th minute, No. 8 Ang Seow Pinn landed a try and converted to give them the lead again - 13-12. But just four minutes later, ACS(I) responded with a penalty to regain the lead.

Then came James' try, which stunned their opponents.

After the final whistle, the Saints erupted in joy as they celebrated with their supporters, who swamped the pitch.

It was sweet revenge for the Saints, who were trounced 28-8 in last year's final by the same opponents.

An ecstatic Seow Pinn said: "We have come back to destroy them this year."

James' twin brother Julian added: "We wanted to stop them from winning everything."

While St Andrew's lifted the Goh Keng Swee Shield, the boys in blue and gold were left disconsolate, although ACS(I) coach Adrian Chong said that his charges' performance had exceeded his expectations.

The team had to play the competition without their captain and key player Lam Wei Xuan, who broke his collarbone in June.

Chong admitted that even reaching the final was a tall order for the team, who made their 23rd straight final appearance. He said: "We came in as underdogs this year, and for us to make the final is something we can be proud of."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2015, with the headline 'SAINTS SNATCH RUGBY TITLE'. Print Edition | Subscribe