SINGAPORE- Booming roars and school cheers would have reverberated around the sports hall hosting the B Division boys' sepak takraw final in pre-Covid times, but instead of a venue packed to the rafters with supporters, only about 30 student-athletes, coaches and teachers were allowed indoors on Wednesday (April 21).
But the group filled the silence of an empty hall with their loud cheers and applause in a thrilling contest between Jurongville Secondary School and Bartley Secondary School at the Ministry of Education's (MOE) Physical, Sports and Outdoor Education Branch.
With Jurongville on the hunt for their first national title in a decade and their rivals chasing a first-ever triumph, the match-up went down to the wire as both sides were locked in battle from the get-go.
With each school fielding three teams each for the three-match finals, Bartley Secondary started strong in the first regu as their first trio claimed victory 15-8, 15-12 to go 1-0 up.
The second regu proved to be a tighter contest as Jurongville clawed back to level matters at 1-1 (7-15, 15-5, 15-11), before their third team edged out Bartley in the decider 15-12, 13-15, 15-10 to claim the 2-1 overall win.
Jurongville had previously made the top four in the C Division in 2018 and 2019, but had not won the B Division title since 2011.
Jurongville player Haziq Akaysah Abdul Rahman said after the match: "I'm really very proud of our team because it has been so long since we achieved first place. While our performance wasn't up to our expectations and there were many improvements to be made, we worked together to get the gold."
The Secondary Five student added that they had lost "motivation to train" after the National School Games were axed last year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, but news of its resumption this season had given them much needed encouragement.
While there was joy for Jurongville on Wednesday, their rivals were reduced to tears after the near-miss.
Bartley Secondary's Trio Zacky, 16, said: "It was very disappointing because I really thought we could do better than this. It feels great to be competing again and I did not expect that we would make it this far, so it was very disappointing that we could not get what we wanted in the beginning, which was to get first place.
"We got more motivated to train despite a break last year, but today a lot of players were really lost on court. It is very sad, but it is great that we at least managed to get second place."
The bronze medal contest between Queensway Secondary School and Marsiling Secondary School saw Queensway winning 2-0 overall.
Queensway Secondary captain Fazrul Hakimie was pleased with how his team performed despite the lack of training.
The 15-year-old said: "As there was no competition last year, we could not prepare well because we were not able to know the standards of other teams. Our goal coming into the competition was national champions but it's okay, we won third and we appreciate (the result)."