National rugby coach Ben
Bourne (standing 5th R)
poses for a photo with the
national rugby team after
returning from the Sabah
Governor's Cup Invitational
Rugby 15s. Picture: Courtesy
of Ben Bourne
National rugby coach Ben Bourne is ecstatic with his team's win at the inaugural Sabah Governor's Cup Invitational Rugby 15s in Kota Kinabalu on Sunday the 44-24 result against Sarawak their first victory of the year.
The national team made a big bounce back in the tournament to defeat Sarawak to clinch third after losing their first game of the four-team competition 95-6 to eventual champions Eagles Rugby Club (ERC).
The Sandakan-based Eagles, who were representing Sabah and had a host of Fijian and semi-professional players in their ranks, would go on to beat Labuan 92-0 to win the event at the Likas Stadium.
The national team had not notched a win since June 26, 2012, when they beat host nation Cambodia during the HSBC Asian 5 Nations (A5N) and then defeated 70-7 by Laos in their second and final match of the tournament.
This year's edition in Cambodia saw Brunei fall to Cambodia 38-0 on July 5 and 28-0 on July 7 at the RCAF Old Stadium in Phnom Penh.
Speaking to The Brunei Times, Bourne said he brought his team back to basics to steal the game against Sarawak, and they picked up the win by showing better and stronger defensive structure which helped strengthen their attacks out wide and in close with both packs.
The coach also attributed the win to the team's ability to work hard in carrying out the smallest of details and focusing on getting the ball and maintaining the possession.
"I am extremely proud and I know the men feel the same if not more," he said.
"The guys have worked hard for this and they deserve it.
"I knew they would succeed from observing their dedication and commitment in training over the past weeks, especially during the festive season.
"It was just a matter of time (until they would succeed).
"We also introduced a few things into our attack like a better kicking game which spiced things up.
"Communication was vital, and it played an important role in both games.
"We also had great leadership on and off the field, which helped maintain the team's discipline throughout the tour," said Bourne.
National captain Lim Shen Quan led the backs while the captain for the forwards was Ali Abdul Aziz Dato Seri Pahlawan Brigadier General (Rtd) Hj Jofri. Muhd Ali Nurul Saffuan Muhd Ali and Md Redha Hj Adinin served as vice-captains in the backs and forwards respectively.
Noting that time constraints is an issue for some sports in Brunei, Bourne said he had to make the most of what he had.
"There are many great players in Brunei but not many were willing to sacrifice their time like these men did," said the Samoan.
"The credit has to go out to the team, because in the end, they were the ones who did the work.
"Also a huge thanks to Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, the Brunei Rugby Football Union, team manager Muhammad Khalil Hazazi Abdul Latif, coach David Whaanga, coach Lim Chee Wee, Sabah Rugby Union (SRU) and to our families and friends for all the support," added Bourne.
The victory is a big accomplishment for the team, and hopefully they will be able to get a winning streak going.
"The tournament by far is a game changer in the mindset of our players," revealed Muhammad Khalil.
"We came with the objective to fix the failures we had in the Cambodia tour and we fulfilled it (and) eventually also achieved more.
"Our loss against Sabah and then our win against Sarawak has been a strong lesson for the team and the management to never falter in the face of adversity.
"Looking at what we have accomplished in Sabah, I am confident to say that the tour has been very successful for Brunei rugby," added Khalil.
Next on the list for Bourne is the ARFU (Asian Rugby Football Union) Asia Junior 7's Under-20 Tournament. The competition was set to take place from June 22-23 but has been moved to September 13-14.
According to Sabah newspaper Daily Express, the Eagles were in a class of their own in Sunday's final scoring their first try inside the opening minute on the way to taking a 45-0 lead at the break.
The tournament, which was organised by the SRU, was aimed to provide the perfect platform for state players to prove that they are at least at par if not better than the region's bests.
SRU Deputy President Dr KH Tan, who is also the Malaysian Rugby Union vice-president, had earlier stated that the tournament will also give an opportunity for the hundreds of school children currently involved in the Sabah Academy for Rugby Excellence to witness the region's top ruggers live in action.
Tan believed that the exposure should further whet their appetite for the game and encourage them to train even harder.
He also promised that future editions will be progressively better in terms of participation and standard with the expected participation of Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines next year.