SINGAPORE -Tycen Yeoh had been spending about 30 minutes after each of his four weekly training sessions practising his kicks in preparation for the Schools National C Division rugby final.
But the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) rugby captain was still surprised by the way his hard work paid off in his side's 19-7 victory over close rivals St Andrew's Secondary School on Thursday (Aug 29).
Tycen contributed 14 points, first converting teammate Jeffrey Lee's try before nailing four penalties to clinch ACS(I)'s fourth-straight C Division title at Queenstown Stadium.
Describing that first conversion kick as the most nerve-racking, the 14-year-old told The Straits Times: "In most of my group stage games I missed most of the kicks from that side, so I was very nervous.
"I just (told myself) that after all this training that I've done, let's make the kick worth it. I didn't have any other second thoughts after that."
The fly-half, who had sought his seniors' help during his post-training practice sessions, was surprised that most of his kicks made it in during the final.
Of the two penalties he missed in the game, he said: "My team was with me when I missed those kicks, they told me it was all right and that I would make it again, which helped a lot."
After converting Jeffrey's try, Tycen made two successful penalties to give ACS(I) a 13-0 lead at half-time.
The Saints then narrowed the score through Kaleb Carl Wang Petersen's try, which was converted by Ian Lee. Though ACS(I)'s Jacob Tan and Muhammad Irfan Siregar Sahat Siregar were given red cards, their team's defence did not waver and they continued to keep their opponents at bay until the final whistle.
ACS(I) had lost 10-12 to the same opponents in the group stage, and coach Adrian Chong believes his side's final victory is a result of a tighter defence.
Recalling that the Saints won the preliminary game through two late tries, he said: "Today our boys showed (their improved defence) when we had 13 men on the field and (the opponents) didn't score.
"I thought it was a real team performance, and Tycen really showed how to play as the captain. Every point counts but to nail (the kicks) in the final is the tough one and I think Tycen really showed his mettle today by being able to take the pressure."
Saints captain Tristan Ang, in tears after the match, felt his team made the mistake of complacency after their group-stage win and after the two ACS(I) players were sent off.
"ACS(I) only scored one try, so all the other points came from the kicks which were from the penalties we created. There were a lot of fouls created by us and we have to work on that, especially in our own half," said the 14-year-old.
"We took things for granted when they were down two men, and we thought the game would go our way."
That this year's final score was much closer than last year's 0-60 rout was little consolation, as Tristan said: "It's still not the score that we wanted. We have improved together as a team from our thrashing last year and we all told ourselves we want to put up a better performance today, but this was not the performance we hoped for."
Still, he vowed to come back stronger.
"Hopefully next year I'll see (the Secondary 1 players) grow as a team and as for the Secondary 2 players, we'll work towards next year's B Division tournament with our seniors and hopefully we will win."