By Jeremy Yew (13A01B)
Photos by Aidan Mock (13A01B)
“Pride! Passion! Soul! Speed! R-A-F-F-L-E-S!”
That pretty much summed up the way the Raffles Rugby Team played in the finals of the A-Division Rugby Police Cup on the evening of 10th May. However, despite their best efforts, they eventually emerged runners-up to long-time rivals ACS (I) with a score of 23-0.
On one end of the pitch, the ACS (I) Bumblebees were an intimidating formation of yellow and blue stripes. With their barrel chests and seam-bursting biceps, they looked more like bears on steroids than eighteen-year-olds.
On the other end, we saw a frontier of determined, fiery Gryphons ready to play their hearts out. They were no small bunch either, but the difference in size was apparent. However, Shaun Sia, a Year 5 member of the team, told us: “It’s not how big you are – it’s how big you play.”
The game started without much fanfare, and a kickoff to the opposing team saw Raffles quickly head into the opposite half. The supporters’ cheers were rewarded with tantalizingly close efforts at the 5-metre mark of the opposing team’s try-line.
About 10 minutes into the game a penalty kick was given to ACS (I) in the center of our half. A hushed silence ensued, the ball sailed between the posts, and the red flags went up. The Bumblebees had just gained an early upper hand of 3 points. Yet that only made our supporters cheer louder and our players fight harder.
After a 45 minute delay (the lightning alert had gone on), the Bumblebees scored an unconverted* try, bringing the score line to 8-0. From then on the match was a constant heart-wrenching see-saw of excitement: Raffles saw many penetrating, powerful runs from a disciplined attack and ensured that the play was mostly in the opponent’s half of the field.
However, when it was in their possession, ACS (I)’s quick, short passes and focused attack strategy put constant pressure on our solid defense, and some of their long-distance kicks proved tricky for the Raffles back-line (sweepers) at times, causing many dangerous forays into our half, and venturing dangerously close to our try-line. Despite the team’s best efforts, ACS (I) brought the score to an uneasy 13-0 with another unconverted try at the end of the first half.
The second half kicked off with Raffles furiously returning into the game, all guns blazing. The crowd saw Year 5 players Matthew Tjeong and Nicholas Phua make daring runs across half the field. Despite numerous promising but ultimately fruitless campaigns into enemy territory, and yet another unconverted try for ACS (I), Raffles displayed true grit, determined to fight till the final whistle blow.
Unfortunately, in rugby, effort and spirit are not always proportionate with results. The match ended with a last-minute try by the Bumblebees and an admittedly dismaying score of 23-0. Even though the players walked off the pitch with broken hearts and shiny eyes, they kept their chins up as the school rallied around them for the Institution Anthem.
Afterwards, team captain Benjamin Broughton told us, “We lost because we didn’t score when we were in their half, even though we spent more time there…There were some individual mistakes by players, but as a team we played well. Although it doesn’t look like it, and the score line might not seem so small, but the game was really quite close.
“This is my last match in RJ. But I played my heart out, had a good team game, and enjoyed playing with my teammates – my brothers – so…
*Unconverted try – after every try scored which gives 5 points, a conversion kick is granted, if the ball goes between the posts it is ‘converted’, granting a bonus 2 points. If it misses, it is ‘unconverted’, and no bonus points are given. A penalty kick scored gives 3 points.