Cambodia edged the Brunei Leopards 25-20 to finish second at the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) Asian 5 Nations Division IV tournament yesterday.
The Leopards, who were leading 20-17 in the 59th minute, slowly saw the game slip away as the Cambodian's picked up their game to take the win in the last 11 minutes. Nicknamed the Koupreys, Cambodia took every chance at the post when awarded penalties, which eventually played a part in their victory.
Brunei started the stronger of the two sides, pushing the Koupreys back into their own territory at the Balapan Track and Field of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex in Berakas. Brunei tried to penetrate the right flank, going into numerous rucks before the ball was swung down to the back line where Muhd Ali Nurul Saffuan Muhd Ali slipped through a tight gap to take the 5-0 lead in the 3rd minute.
Lim Shen Quan stepped up to convert the try to give the local side a 7-0 cushion. The Leopards added three more points when they were awarded a penalty dead ahead of the post which Ahmad Faez Anuar put through to widen the gap to 10-0 in the 12th minute.
Koupreys finally made some ground after the Leopards gave away an easy penalty, which Vanrara Norn converted to see his team trail 10-3 in the 14th minute. The Leopards' second try came through Azim Hj Abu Bakar who sped down a free right flank after Brunei quickly threw the ball down to him from their successful lineout to boost their lead to 15-3 in the 30th minute.
Kouprey's Nimol Chhil finally secured his team's first try of the game by bashing his way through Brunei's defence, closing the gap to 15-8 in the 40th minute. Norn converted the ball to bring the game to 15-10.
The Koupreys came out strong in the second half, taking an early first try through a quick tap and go at the Leopards' 20m line. The ball was swung down to Norn who made his way between two opponents to tie the game at 15-15 in the 43rd minute.
Norn sent the ball through the post to give Cambodia their first lead of the game at 15-17. Brunei regained the lead through Md Syafiee Matali after he picked up the ball from a scrum before crashing his way through the Koupreys' front and back line, slamming the ball down for a 20-17 lead in the 59th minute.
Cambodia could have added to their points in the 65th minute but their penalty from a difficult angle flew wide. They eventually took back the lead after Brunei turned over the ball before the try line. Sovanrado Nong gained possession of the ball to bring the game to 20-22 in the 69th minute.
Norn added another three points to his name through a penalty in the 75th minute. Mongolia were the overall champions of the competition after defeating Brunei 38-13 in their opening game on Tuesday, followed by a 44-5 thrashing over Cambodia on Thursday.
Praises flow for both Brunei and Cambodia
Canbodia's coach Jerome Alfonsi said that he was happy with their 25-20 win over Brunei at the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) Asian 5 Nations Division IV tournament yesterday. Despite being handed a 44-5 thrashing by Mongolia two days prior to their clash against Brunei, Alfonsi managed to keep his players motivated for their sole win.
"I'm very happy about our match because we had a very tough game (on Thursday) since there was a big difference between Mongolia and us," Alfonsi told The Brunei Times after last night's match. Alfonsi felt that his boys did a very good job, especially with the win coming against the host nation.
"We did well and we beat Brunei at home so it's a very good performance for us. We are very happy especially since it's a very young group... half of the team are Under-25, so it's good for the nation," said Alfonsi.
The coach shared that this is a step forward for Cambodia's rugby future as they had one U-18 player while many of his teammates were aged between 20 to 23. "Sometimes it's very difficult because the physical size of Cambodia's players is not like that of other countries but it's a first step to build rugby in Cambodia," said Alfonsi.
National captain Muhammad Redha Hj Adinin was still happy with Brunei's performance as they came through with their 'do or die' attitude. Although three of their men were sent to the sin bin in the dying minutes, Brunei stood their ground until the end but unfortunately saw the game slip away through a try and penalty.
"We had to defend our line even if there were three players out all the way to the end... as I said do or die," said Redha. "My boys did really well, our main objective was to go all out until the 80th minute and they did it. "No backing out, they kept on pressuring the Cambodians but the high tackles weren't helping us," he said.
Redha did admit that Cambodia managed to capitalise on their mistakes, which cost them the game. "I guess this is a lesson for us... hopefully we will rise again in the future," noted Redha. "Compared to the game against Mongolia, we played better today. the defence line was a little bit improved and we did the pressure line perfectly so that's the upside of this," he added.
Vice-captain Ahmad Faez Anuar also felt that Cambodia won because they were able to capitalise on their mistakes. "We fought our hearts out and sometimes you do everything right but it's still not enough," said Faez. "The goal now is just to keep the boys together and we have to believe there's more to come.
"Every game is a stepping stone for us, so we always have to (learn) from our mistakes. "Today's a testament of what we need to do and where we are as a team... We will pick it up from there," said Faez.