Rugby: SEA 7s victory the best tune-up for men's side

Mattias Chia of Singapore brushing aside his Malaysian opponent to score a try in a 19-7 win to clinch the host nation's first SEA sevens trophy. The triumph will put them in good stead ahead of August's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, where they will be
Mattias Chia of Singapore brushing aside his Malaysian opponent to score a try in a 19-7 win to clinch the host nation's first SEA sevens trophy. The triumph will put them in good stead ahead of August's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, where they will be hoping to win gold.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Singapore's rugby sevens team served notice of their gold medal ambitions ahead of August's SEA Games, when they clinched their first South-east Asia (SEA) sevens trophy at the National Stadium yesterday.

Against in-form regional rivals and 2015 SEA Games silver medallists Malaysia - who had stunned defending champions Thailand 24-0 to reach the final - the hosts put up a dominant second-half display to clinch the game 19-7.

The victory erased last year's disappointment, as Singapore fell to Thailand in the final of the tournament, which is held concurrently with the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens event.

Said an elated men's captain Marah Ishraf: "It is a really great feeling to win it. We came up short last year but coming back here to win it just goes to show our character."

The game started at a blistering pace, with the hosts taking a 7-0 lead in the early minutes of the game through a penalty try.

However, the visitors fought back to equalise before half-time. 

That did not deter the Singapore players, who came back strong from the break, immediately stealing possession, and testing the Malaysian defence before taking the lead with a try from Mattias Chia.

Buoyed, the hosts turned on the style with a superb try to seal the game.

Winger Teng Chong Yao gave a shout to captain Marah, and the fly-half responded with a perfectly-timed pass for Teng to score. 

Despite the win, Marah believes that his side still need to improve ahead of the SEA Games. He said: "Even though we won today, the end goal is still the SEA Games in Malaysia, so they might come back doubly hard there.

"We still have a lot to improve on such as our individual skills and decision making. If we fine tune all these, then we have a good shot of winning at the coming SEA Games."

While the men's team celebrated their win, it was disappointment again for the Singapore women's team. In a rematch of last year's final, they crashed to a 34-0 defeat by defending champions Thailand.

The one-sided game saw Thailand repeatedly infiltrate Singapore's defence from the wings to score six tries in an overpowering performance.

Said women's captain Alvinia Ow Yong: "We tried to match them speed for speed but ended up making mistakes that cost us.

"We will be looking to be more disciplined in terms of keeping our structure as we prepare for the SEA Games." 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 16, 2017, with the headline 'SEA 7s victory the best tune-up for men's side'. Print Edition | Subscribe