I keep hearing that I only write about doom and gloom so to follow up on the good news about Ray Kelly and company let me pass on the results of a rugby tournament in which the Philippines sent a talented team of youths to Hong Kong to kick some butt, eh, I mean, participate in a gentlemanly, friendly game of rugby. What made this special is that that Philippine team included young boys who are residents of the Bahay Bata Street Children's Center, youngsters from the streets of Angeles City who never even heard of rugby until they came to live and be educated at the Center. Now, what follows is quite long but I know there are a lot of readers of this column that love rugby so you won't mind the length. It was a smashing success for the lads from the Philippines and what a great experience for them.
PRFU JUNIOR VOLCANOES (U14/U16) TOUR OF HONG KONG NOVEMBER 4-6 2011
What a tour! What rugby! What coaching! What interesting accommodation!
On behalf of the PRFU Board, congratulations to all those involved with this tour. In short, on the rugby front, Philippines scored 144, the opposition scored 10.
The detailed game reports are outlined further below, but for many of the boys this was their first rugby tour and the bonds that have been formed will last forever. A combination of players from the Bahay Bata orphanage, International School Manila and British School Manila formed the core of the touring party with other single members from Cebu International School, Manila Japanese School, Makati Mavericks and England (see the attended list for participants).
The touring party was met at the airport by Tim Smith (U16, Nuneaton, UK) and his father, Martin, who generously volunteered to be tour physiotherapist. The boys checked into the well-positioned, but less than luxurious UK Hostel within the Chung King Mansions in Nathan Road,Kowloon.
With little time to consider the opulence of their surroundings the boys were soon enjoying a meal (pre-arranged by the helpful Philippine consulate staff in Hong Kong) which was consumed at the nearby TGIF after negotiations with resident Filipino staff involving the purchase of brownies for dessert.
The boys dispersed to either Block A or Block E and were asleep by around midnight. On the basis of professional nutritionist advice, breakfast on Saturday morning was taken at the local McDonalds and the boys undertook the longish bus journey to Sandy Bay, located within the Hong KongUniversity.
By mid-morning, a largish contingent of Filipino supporters were congregating at Sandy Bay as the U14 boys were prepared with their strappings and received their final instructions from Coaches Melrose(s) and Brown. There was a quiet confidence among the group as the tourists had now largely been together for a period of 9-10 weeks, as the tour was originally scheduled for early October 2011.
Game 1 – Philippine Under 14s National Team vs Hong Kong Select Under 14s
The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) had selected from their various clubs the best of their “steps” players, i.e. their better HK Chinese ethnic players. It soon became apparent that this group would be no match for our well-drilled boys.
After a tense beginning, with errors from both sides, the Philippines opened the scoring with a try in the corner to Andrew Holgate. Soon afterwards, Andrew left the game with a twisted ankle and played no further part in this match (but see the Game 3 report).
With the nerves now well settled, Fergus Gregori dotted down a 5-pointer and AJ O’Regan-Brown (“AJ”) at outside center scored the first of his hat-trick for the match. The half-time scored stood at 31-0 after Jeremy Churchill bustled over and AJ burst through for his second.
The front row of Mike Koh, Kaelum Madera and Kai Stroem (the skipper), were now asserting their authority on the match and the score would have been greater if Mike Koh, after a rampaging run had not decided to place the ball down before he reached the try line.
Unfortunately, Dan O’Reilly-Conboy also had to leave the field with a sore wrist but the coaches had stressed the importance of all 22 members of the squad contributing to the team’s performance and Cathal Moylan and Jamie Young ably stepped up to the challenge.
Into the second half and Andrew Melrose’s continued marshaling of his pack and quick service combined with Josh Whyte’s decision-making and distribution led to Cathal’s first try and AJ’s completion of his hat-trick. By now, the subs were having an impact and David Wensley was instrumental in Cathal’s second try. Ryan Santos scored an opportunist’s try and JR Valdez put the icing on the cake just before the final whistle.
Shamz Shamsuddin, Ryan Padilla and Jun-Jun Chua let nothing past them in defence and were creative going forward. Oliver Booth relished the bullocking work when he came on and Hamish Seddon made an incisive break and was unlucky not to score. John Becker was busy on his wing, while Maiki Ueda had a strong match often making yards with his trademark pick and drive.
Overall, a resounding victory: Philippines 60, HK Select 0.
Details of Scores:
Tries: AJ O’Regan-Brown (3), Cathal Moylan (2), Andrew Holgate, Fergus Gregori, Jeremy Churchill, Ryan Santos, JR Valdez
Conversions: AJ O’Regan-Brown (5)
Best Back: AJ O’Regan- Brown
Best Forward: Kai Stroem
Game 2: Philippine Under 16s National Team vs Hong Kong Select Under 16s
It was clear that this Philippine Touring Group had “come to play” and the HK U16 team seemed more prepared for our older Junior Volcanoes. With Tim Smith (fly-half), from the UK, having met his teammates only the night before, it was understandable that early on in this game there would be a battle in the forwards.
Taking advantage of possession and territory domination, and after several strong runs by Tim Churchill (No. 8), Tim Smith opened the scoring with a penalty. The boys known as “the bookends”, Carlo Albert and Sabino Padilla, assisted by their “partner in front-row crime” Kai Bechtel, were wearing down their opponents with their strong runs and crunching tackles.
After a strong start, Jack Boswell was forced to leave the field with a painful injury to his back, but as with the U14s, Joseph Flynn was ready to step into the breech and had a strong game thereafter.
Almost inevitably, Tim Churchill broke through for the first try, which was converted by the “other Tim” and the Philippines led 10-0 at the break.
Miguel Ayala had been impressive in tackling heavier opponents and Fuederiko Sampei was also strong in defence and Justin Semana was effective at the break-down and almost scored when unfortunately he placed the ball down on the foot of an opponent over the line.
If the scoreline at half-time, 10-0, did not truly reflect the dominance of the Philippines, when it became 10-5 after an opportunist try by HK immediately after the break, Paul Churchill’s team could easily have become rattled. Instead, after multiple excellent phases, Sabino saw a gap near the try-line and needed no further invitation to score under the posts. Minutes later, Tim Churchill was in for his second try and the lead had stretched to 24-5. By this stage, more use was being made of the backline, as Shoko Choga replaced Jonnel Madrona, who had been very tidy. Arthur Chee and Gio Raasas had let nothing past them all game and Fergal Feeney and Callum Gregori (captain) had been dangerous and always warranted attention from the HK defence.
After the final water break, Tim Smith made the game safe with his second penalty and Arthur Chee reaped due reward for his excellent game, capping off a fluent movement with the final try of the game, which was converted. Brian Ko and Ronald Gonzaga got their first taste of international rugby and the U16s ran out deserved winners 34-5.
Details of Scores:
Tries: Tim Churchill (2), Sabino Padilla, Arthur Chee
Penalties: Tim Smith (2)
Conversions: Tim Smith (4)
Best Back: Arthur Chee
Best Forward: Sabino Padilla
After two well-deserved victories, the boys were able to watch two first-class men’s matches at the Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC), after lunch provided there by the HKFRU. A sumptuous buffet dinner by the poolside at the HKFC was enjoyed before the boys collapsed into their beds – the U14s a little nervous about the prospect of playing the highly regarded HKFC U14 side early the next morning.
Game 3: Philippine Under 14 National Team vs HKFC Under 14 Team
Due to a withdrawal earlier in the week of a local club opponent, HKFC had graciously agreed to grant our request for “more rugby” by allowing our U14 national team to play them.
Coach Steve Melrose admitted (only later) to being nervous about the game. We were playing a team who would be experienced and on their home turf. After such a splendid Saturday, anything less than a win may have taken the gloss from the excellent results of the previous day.
The first-half performance in this game will surely go down in PRFU’s short history as a testament to excellent coaching, motivated players and a willingness to show the rest of Asia that Philippine rugby players, of any age, should not be underestimated.
By half-time, the U14s led by 36-0 after a breathtaking display of powerful forward play, complemented by incisive running from the backs on the expansive main pitch at HKFC. In particular, our Bahay Bata boys, having grown in confidence from the previous day, led the way. Jun-Jun Chua scored two brilliant tries and Ryan Padilla touched down in the corner. Shamz had scored the boys’ first try and Dan O’Reilly-Conboy galloped in for the second. Andrew Holgate (yes, recovered from the previous day) showed a turn of speed and a swerve that any experienced winger would be proud of. All of this on the back of a rampaging forward pack – Kai Stroem, Kaelum Madera, Maiki Ueda and Fergus Gregori excelling. Daniel O’Reilly Conboy was safe as houses on the restart, bravely soldiering on with his injury from the previous day.
Half-time could not arrive early enough for the HKFC coaches and to their credit a change of game plan and additional determination saw thePhilippines pinned in their own half early in the second half. HKFC scored a try wide out, but they would be their first and last score of the game. AJ scored a break-away try, and then came, perhaps, the try of the weekend. After a fluent back line movement, the ball arrived with David Wensley, who hared off down the wing. Realising that he would be tackled and after a superb initial dummy, David offloaded perfectly to AJ with an inside pass, and they both went off to celebrate under the posts. Duly converted, it was a fitting finale to a fine weekend of competitive rugby for our boys.
HKFC had taped the game and the boys were thrilled to be able to re-live their exploits on the big screen after their shower.
Details of scores:
Tries: Jun Jun Chua (2), AJ O’Regan-Brown (2), Shamz Shamsuddin, Dan O’Reilly-Conby, Andrew Holgate, Ryan Padilla.
Conversions: AJ O’Regan-Brown (5)
Best Back: Jun Jun Chua
Best Forward: Fergus Gregori
HKFC had been superb hosts, and after a delicious lunch on the Sportsman’s Bar patio, thank yous and awards were given formally.
Over the weekend, positive comments were made by spectators and the referees not only on the athletic ability of our boys but on their technical play, which made it obvious that they had been expertly coached. Huge, huge thanks to the hours put into the coaching by Steve Melrose, Paul Churchill, Bill Brown and Daniel Melrose – simply superb. Having agreed with our opponents to allow rolling substitutes, all players enjoyed substantial game time.
On the administration side, very new into her new job, Junnel Palomata (now nick-named Aunty Junnel), was brilliant with her organization, liaison with the Consulate and her obvious caring attitude towards the boys. Thanks also to Martin Smith for supervising the physio side of things (no serious injuries to report). Cheers to Ericson Rizal, the Bahay Bata guardian. Rick Santos, who stepped up early on with the juniors via the CBRE sponsorship, and was a great support to the team all weekend.
But finally of course, well done to the boys. On the field – sensational. Off the field, in challenging circumstances surrounding the accommodation, they were responsive and respectful.
The junior Philippine Volcanoes have done the country proud.