SINGAPORE - Among the Victoria School (VS) B Division hockey players, Jangra Aditya is considered a late starter, having taken up the sport only three years ago.
Yet the left-wing forward emerged as their hero on Tuesday (May 17) by scoring a hat-trick to help his side beat Raffles Institution (RI) 3-0 in the National School Games final.
Playing without their injured captain K Ashvin, 2019 runners-up VS drew first blood after just three minutes when Jangra scored, to the delight of the supporters who were still streaming into the Sengkang Hockey Stadium.
The 15-year-old then gave them more reasons to cheer when he doubled their lead just seven minutes later and completed his hat-trick eight minutes into the third quarter.
Receiving a quick cutback from the right, Jangra skipped past an RI defender with some neat stickwork and volleyed the ball past the goalkeeper for his last goal.
An elated Jangra, said: "It was quite an underdog moment for me because I had the least experience on the team while most of my team have at least seven to eight years of experience. It felt great to score, especially scoring three goals in the final."
The Secondary 4 student was quick to credit his teammates as well for the dominant performance. "My team was amazing. I know that I ended up scoring the goals but it is thanks to my team" he added. "Their defending was great, the midfield's transfer was amazing. I'm thankful that I was there to score goals for my team and contribute to it."
VS coach Nordin Manaff, 55, was delighted for Jangra. "We pushed him very hard. We saw the potential and knew that he could achieve such a performance. It was very good that he was able to rise to the occasion and live up to expectations.
"The win means a lot to us. It opens the door for the boys and the school to believe that we can be the best and hopefully continue to succeed in the future."
Sidelined due to an eye injury sustained in the semi-final with Seng Kang Secondary School, Ashvin, 16, was proud that his teammates won in his absence.
"I think they played really well. They listened to the coach's game plan, playing calm and confidently. They did well," he said.
"I was scared that they may think too much about my absence and lose focus during the game. But they didn't. They focused on what mattered and pulled through with the win."
Despite the loss, RI captain Thievyan Koban was equally proud of his team for putting up a good fight.
"Even when we were trailing, we never gave up and fought till the end," he said. "From the start of the tournament to where we are now, I think we've improved a lot. I'm very thankful for the coaches, teachers and parents for always being there for us and supporting us throughout the competition.
"It is very exciting and thrilling because this is the first time we've had match support in three years. It's very comforting and encouraging to see our classmates and friends come down to support us and it really helps us get through the games," the 16-year-old said.
His brother, Hiren, who is also the RI A Div captain, was present to show his support for his juniors together with the rest of the A Div team.
"It has been a tradition for us to support our juniors and it would mean a lot to us to see them do well."
Armed with drums and flags, both sets of supporters were out in full force, determined to drown the other out and win the battle both on and off the pitch.
Part of the VS cheering contingent, vice head prefect Muhammad Ishraaq Sirajudeen said: "I feel that it's important to come down and show our support for our team whether we win or lose. It is to show our school spirit and culture. We should motivate them until the very end and the feeling that everyone feels when we win is just amazing. It is something that no student will ever forget."
The stands were filled not just by students - both current and former - and teachers but parents as well.
Karen Tan, mum of VS player Dylan Tan, was delighted to be physically present to witness her son's win.
Accompanied by her husband and daughter, the 42-year-old said: "This is our first time coming down to watch his matches physically. My husband took leave to be able to come down and we will be spending the weekend celebrating his win."