SINGAPORE - A slow start may have cost the Singapore men's rugby team the Asia Rugby Championship Division 1 title on Saturday (June 1), but Singapore head coach Mark Lee believes the fighting spirit his charges showed bodes well for the future of the team.
Though he rued the missed opportunities in Singapore's 29-21 defeat by the Philippines at the Taipei Municipal Stadium, Lee said: "We had opportunities down to the last (part of the match) when we scored the try two minutes before full-time and it was a waste but at the end of the day it's finals rugby: you've got to take your chances when you have them and the team which makes fewer mistakes wins.
"We had to play a bit more territory and rightfully so because it was raining heavily throughout the morning and afternoon, and conditions weren't ideal to play running rugby. The Philippines pinned us down in our half and put the pressure on early (but) our boys dug deep and held their heads high at the end... I'm immensely proud of them and I can't ask for more as a coach."
The Philippines raced to a 12-0 lead before Singapore replied through Jonathan Wong (try)and Marah Ishraf (conversion). But the defending champions held on to lead 19-10 at half-time, and then to victory after the Republic reduced the deficit to three points during the second half.
Also, Sri Lanka beat hosts Chinese Taipei 72-17 for third place on Saturday.
Lee is confident his players will learn from their loss.
"We've got age on our side - we've lowered the average age from 32 to 26 or 27. The boys will learn from being exposed to international rugby, I hope they keep on playing knowing that's the benchmark needed to win Division 1 and they must also have belief in their ability," added the 41-year-old.
"We're looking forward to being in the final round of the Rugby World Cup qualification process in 2022 and this is the squad we want to build. Majority of them are (about) 26 years old so by then they should be playing at their peak, so that augurs well for them."