2019 Asia Rugby Division 1 Women’s Championships: Philippine Lady Volcanoes vs India in Calamba, Laguna

Philippine Lady Volcanoes (© Asia Rugby, Singapore Rugby)
Philippine Lady Volcanoes (© Asia Rugby, Singapore Rugby)

The 2019 Asia Rugby Division 1 Women’s Championships will be in Calamba, Laguna, Philippines on June 19-22, 2019. This gives the home crowd advantage to the Philippine women’s national rugby sevens team, known as the Lady Volcanoes, which will go against its Indian counterpart.

Recently, Philippine Rugby agreed to host the championships to ensure the competition had sufficient support. It was originally scheduled to be played outside the country.

“We hosted the Asia Rugby Men’s Championships last year,” Philippine Rugby general manager Jake Letts said. “When the request came to look to host the Women’s Championships, we decided we wanted to be able to give the same opportunities for our women’s to play on home soil.”

In 2018, the Lady Volcanoes finished second in Division 1. This year, the Philippines will be aiming to go one better and do so in front of a home ground.

“We play India in our first game,” Lady Volcanoes halfback Acee San Juan shared. “Hopefully, we can get a win and progress to the final. Last year, we were successful over India. We are looking to achieve the same result next Wednesday.”

The Volcanoes will be seeded second behind Singapore and ahead of both India and China. The competition between all nations looks to be fairly contested.

“Women’s Rugby in Asia is consistently growing and attracting more women and girls to play,” Letts said. “It’s an exciting era for our sport. It’s also positive to see each nation evenly contested in this competition. It’s going to be close between all matches and exciting to watch.”

Among the experienced players of the Lady Volcanoes are Rassiel Sales, Sylvia Tudoc and Aiumi Ono. The National Women’s program has consistently been preparing under Head Coach Andy Brown and Performance Coach Chris Everingham over the last two months and has been sufficiently supported by the MVP Sports Foundation, First Pacific and Philippine Sports Commission.

The first match will be on June 19, 2019 at 3:30 p.m. against India at Southern Plains Sports Field in Calamba. The winner will play either Singapore or China on June 22, 2019.

Asia Rugby Championship Division I title win accompanied by big rankings rise for the Philippines

Philippine Volcanoes (© Asia Rugby)
Philippine Volcanoes (© Asia Rugby)

After successfully defending their Asia Rugby Championship Division I title following a 29-21 win in a thrilling final against Singapore, the Philippines have jumped up 11 places in the World Rugby Rankings to an all-time high of 42nd – seven places higher than their previous best.

Taking into account their 39-22 semi-final win over Sri Lanka, the Volcanoes picked up 2.61 rating points over the five days of competition. Singapore remain in 57th place as the reward on offer for their 18-13 semi-final win against Chinese Taipei marginally offset the defeat to the Philippines with regard to the rankings.

The Philippines started brightly and after some good work in the backs, both of their wingers Justin Coveney and Ellis Rudder gave them an early 12-0 lead. But Jonathan Wong, who showed incredible pace to score a length of the field try after a quick tap and go inside their own 22, reduced the deficit before a third Philippines try from full-back Patrice Olivier took the score to 19-7.

The Philippines’ penalty count grew and with Ishraf Marah in fine form, his four converted penalties helped Singapore reduce the deficit once more to 19-16 midway through the second half.

However, the Philippines backs once again capitalised on the space created by their forwards with Ned Stephenson calming his side’s nerves before Erik Erikson added their fifth try. There was still time for Wong to add his second but it was too little for Singapore who fell just short in the match.

“I am so proud of the boys, this is such a huge win,” said Philippines’ fly-half and captain Danny Matthews. “It wasn’t the prettiest game of footy but we showed a lot of heart to get the win. All credit Singapore, they were excellent, I can’t say enough how good they were.

“Having two back-to-back games like this in quick succession was a big test and we showed immense determination to get over the line.”

Sri Lanka bounced back from their semi-final defeat to the eventual champions with an impressive 72-17 win over hosts Chinese Taipei. Despite claiming third place, the Tuskers drop a couple of spots in the rankings to 45th with a reduced rating of 46.70 points.

The only other match to affect the rankings was Finland’s 34-22 win against Norway in the concluding match of the Rugby Europe Conference 2 North campaign.

Finland were virtually assured of the runners-up spot behind champions Latvia in the Conference 2 North table when they raced into a 22-0 half-time lead. Norway fought back gamely after the break but a quick-fire brace from openside Matti Keranen put the result beyond any doubt.

Finland move above Uzbekistan and into 91st position in the rankings as a result of their third win of the campaign, while Norway drop to 95th with Pakistan the team to benefit.

Philippine Volcanoes beats Singapore in Asia Rugby Division 1 Championship 2019 in Taipei, Taiwan

Philippine Volcanoes (© Asia Rugby)
Philippine Volcanoes (© Asia Rugby)

The Philippine Volcanoes successfully defeated its Singaporean counterpart in a thrilling final 29-21 to remain the Asia Rugby Division 1 Champion. After successfully toppling the number 1 seed the Sri Lanka Tuskers 39-22 on March 29, 2019, the Philippine national rugby union team had set themselves for the a task for a 2018 rematch with Singapore.

On June 1, 2019, the Asia Rugby Division 1 Championship took place at the Taipei Municipality Stadium in Taipei, Taiwan. It was the same venue for the semi-finals where Singapore defeated the host nation.

A perfectly weighted cross field kick for Justin Villazor Coveney for the opening 5 points set up by the Volcanoes team captain Danny Bembo Matthews allowed their team to start the match strongly. Not long after, the Philippine team had back to back points after Ellis Padillo Rudder found open space to dive over for another 5 pointer.

Singapore hit back after a sneaky quick tap scoring a full length of the field try to close the score lines from 12 to 7. The Volcanoes extended the lead after Patrice Ortiz Olivier broke through the defense adding another 5 points to the Philippine tally.

What kept Singapore in the match was a string of penalties, successfully converting three penalty goals, until Ned Plarizan Stephenson extended the Volcanoes lead down the left sideline that provided the extra buffer. The Philippine forward pack remained dominant for most the match and continued to pay off after a short offload from Robert Luceno Fogerty provided Eric Cruz Erickson an additional five extra points.

At 29 to 16, Singapore hit back and provided hope scoring a late try to close the gap. However, after an unsuccessful conversion kept the Volcanoes ahead by 8 points with little time left on the clock, which ensured the Philippines the championship title defeating Chinese Taipei, Sri Lanka and Singapore in the Asia Rugby Division 1 Championship.

“It wasn’t the prettiest game but we showed a lot of heart to get the win,” Matthews. “All credit Singapore. They were excellent. I can’t say enough how good they were.”

“Having two back-to-back games like this in quick succession was a big test and we showed immense determination to get over the line,” Matthews continued. “It’s an important win for us.”

Kingsley Ballesteros of the Clark Jets made his international debut for the Volcanoes in the Asia Rugby Division 1 Championship 2019. Matthews said that their role as a team is “to help with the development of rugby in the Philippines” and to see the likes of Ballesteros “come off the bench is a testament to growth and development game” and it is good to see the experience for the debutante who has come through the ranks.

The Asia Rugby Division 1 Championship 2019 marked the first time the Volcanoes has tasted this success since 2012 in this division, a special achievement for the team, especially since there had been a change of format for the competition in the past. Philippine Rugby general manager Jake Letts said, “It’s been really positive over the last two years especially, we have been building this program each year.”

“To get this success is a great achievement,” Letts continued. “Credit to all the players and coaching and management staff, a tremendous job they deserve this result. A big thanks to our headline partners in First Pacific, MVP Sports Foundation and the PSC for their continued support.”

After a successful men’s campaign, the focus for Philippine Rugby moves directly to the women’s campaign as they prepare for their own Asia Rugby Championships. The Philippine women’s team will face India, Singapore and China in their Asia Rugby Championships on June 19, 2019 and June 22, 2019 with home ground advantage.

Here is a clip from the Philippine Volcanoes:

 

Philippine Volcanoes beats Sri Lanka Tuskers in Asia Rugby Championships in Taipei, Taiwan

Tim Alonso Berry (© Asia Rugby)
Tim Alonso Berry (© Asia Rugby)

The Philippine Volcanoes stepped up to the challenge at the Taipei Municipal Stadium in Taipei, Taiwan on May 29, 2019. Backed by MVP Sports Foundation and the Philippine Sports Commission, the Philippine national rugby union team defeated the Sri Lanka Tuskers, the top ranked team in the Division 1 Asia Rugby Championships.

Early in the first half, the Volcanoes pounced after star center Robert Luceno Fogerty found the try line in the first minute of play. The Tuskers capitalized soon after through a penalty goal to Samuel Mduwantha but Team Captain Danny Bembo Matthews returned fire with a successful penalty conversion of his own making 8 to 3.

For the next 25 minutes, each nation went toe-to-toe for possession and territory. It was not until the 34th minute where Sri Lanka first took their first lead of the match scoring off a driving maul making it 10 points to 8 with six minutes to play in the first half.

Soon after a dominant run from Edlen Cortez Hernandez broke the Sri Lankan defense with Tim Alonso Berry provided quick skills to score on debut right before the bell to give the Philippines the lead moving into the half time break. Matthews successfully added the two extra points with the Philippines up after 40 minutes of play 15 to 10.

The start of the second half started exactly the same as the first, the Philippines playing positive running rugby with consistent play. Fogerty once again capitalized on quick ball scoring a double making it 20 to 10 two minutes into the second half.

From here on in, the Volcanoes never looked like slowing down. Back-to-back points with Ned Plarizan Stephenson and Justin Villazor Coveney both scoring 5 pointers with Matthews adding the extras.

Up 36 points to 10, the Volcanoes earned themselves a comfortable scoreline ahead. To their credit, a never give in attitude had the Sri Lankans score two late tries however in between a penalty conversion to Matthews had the score out of reach, making it 39 to 22 after 80 minutes of play.

“Really proud of the team,” Matthews said. “The forwards especially dug deep and were clinical which allowed the backs to get clean ball and play attacking rugby. It was a real team effort.”

“Credit to Sri Lanka who can score tries from anywhere,” Matthews continued. “We just needed to hold out until the final whistle. The team showed a lot of maturity and composure to finish the game as winners.”

The Volcanoes have set a rematch in the grand final against Singapore as Singapore defeated host nation Chinese Taipei 18 to 13. The Philippine team will be looking to defend their title as 2018 champions and look to build on their momentum from last nights victory.

“Singapore have a strong forward pack and can be explosive in the backs,” Matthews noted. “But it’s important as a team we focus on ourselves and improvements we can make from Wednesday’s game. It’s important that we step up from last night’s performance and improve yet again.”

The grand final will be played on June 1, 2019 at 7:00 pm at Taipei Municipality Stadium. Here is a clip from the final training of the Philippine Volcanoes prior to the grand final: