Having the Magic Touch: Touch Rugby A Division National Championships

by Huang Jiawen (16S06G), Louisa Li (16A13A) and Stella Soon (16A01C)

19th April 2015 was a big day for Raffles Institution’s (RI) Touch Rugby girls — it was the day they prepared to fight for glory at the National A Division Girls Touch Championships. While several regions of Singapore experienced severe bouts of thunderstorms in the early morning, the skies above the Championships venue, Serangoon Junior College, remained clear and blue, with the sun shining brighter than ever.

As the name suggests, Touch Rugby is a limited-contact version of traditional rugby. Teams of 6 players aim to score as many tries as possible in 20 minutes by grounding the ball on or beyond the opponent’s try-line. At the same time, they have to avoid being ‘touched’ by the defending team – once they are touched 6 times, possession of the ball changes. While it may sound straightforward, Touch Rugby is actually a physically and mentally demanding game that puts the speed, agility, and teamwork of all players to the test.

Coach Weigen giving the Touch Rugby girls a pep talk during the half-time of their match against JJC

Coach Weigen giving the Touch Rugby girls a pep talk during the half-time of their match against JJC

RI VS SRJC

By 9am, the tension radiating from the spectator’s stand was almost palpable, with all eyes trained on the players out on the two fields. Scheduled to kick-start their first game of the season by playing against defending champions, Serangoon Junior College (SRJC), the Touch Rugby girls were determined to maintain a positive outlook despite the sheer strength of their opponents, and they shot off towards the playing field in high spirits.

RI relied mainly on clean, short-range passes that led them close to the try-line, but made several mistakes that unfortunately cost them scoring opportunities. Around the 12th minute, the RI team advanced within a metre of the opponent’s try-line, and had a good chance of scoring a try, but were unable to hold on to the advantage.

On the other hand, SRJC’s neat footwork allowed them to break free of the dogged RI defenders and score several tries. The final score was 4-0 to SRJC, and even though SRJC had the lead throughout the game, RI nevertheless fought bravely and never stopped giving their best.

RI VS ACSI

The second match of the day started promptly at 11am. Fully recuperated from their physically taxing first match, the RI team was eager to make a comeback and secure a victory.  Barely minutes into the game, ACSI seized the opportunity to make a mad dash for the try-line. RI sprinted after their opponents in hot pursuit, but unfortunately, were unable to outrun the ACSI player, who dived for the try-line and scored the 1st touch. RI became noticeably more aggressive after this; they charged at the opponents relentlessly to unleash a continuous series of attacks while swiftly dodging ACSI players who attempted to touch them. This strategy was no doubt effective, and five minutes into the game, the Raffles side erupted into loud cheers and applause when RI scored their 1st touch.

The second half of the match started off with ACSI in possession of the ball, but the tide quickly turned as the RI girls managed to put up a strong line of defense, pursuing each ACSI ball-carrier with dogged determination and forcing a turnover. Towards the end of the game, the players on both sides were fighting with increasing vigour as neither side was able to gain an advantage over the other. RI gained possession and soon after, an RI player made a clean dive for the opponents’ try line, scoring a try. This decisive try tipped the scales in favour of RI, who eventually emerged victorious with a final score of 2-1.

RI VS SRJC

The score tallies of the first two games determined that RI had to face SRJC again, and one could only wonder at our luck — after all, the chances of challenging the same opponents twice on the same day are extremely slim! Although our girls fought bravely, their opponents, who also had home advantage, were just too strong and the game ended with a score of 4-0 in favour of SRJC.

RI VS JJC

RI preparing to defend JJC at their advantageous position near the try-line

RI preparing to defend JJC at their advantageous position near the try-line

RI then played JJC for their third match at 2.30pm. Right after the game began, a JJC player outran the other RI players and passed the ball to a teammate inside the in-goal area — who then fumbled. The RI supporters breathed a sigh of relief, and renewed their efforts in cheering the players on. At one point, JJC was within 10m of the try line, with less than 3 touches on them, but RI defended well and prevented them from securing a try. Another ball interception by JJC was stopped by Kelly Pereira (16), who raced down the field to touch the JJC player. Both side’s solid defences meant that even up till half time, neither RI nor JJC managed to score any tries.

After half time, though, the dummy (the attacking player who picks up the ball after a touch) passed the ball to an unmarked JJC player and scored the first try. RI fought back valiantly, and were close to scoring a couple of times. Eventually, RI went down 1-0 to JJC.

RI VS NYJC

The last match of the day was played at 4pm, and for their very last game of the season, RI fought hard and aggressively. Their passes were smooth, and the runners were fast and agile, evading the defenders from NYJC. On the other hand, NYJC’s many offensive errors and penalties allowed for turnovers that gave RI more possession of the ball, and after 3 successful tries, NYJC were barely spared by the sounding of half time.

After half time, RI rode on their momentum, and Sandra Teo (4) scored again on a difficult pass after a series of aggressive advances. NYJC’s defense soon fell apart, and RI cruised to an easy 5-0 victory.

Raffles Touch Rugby - Team of 2015, along with their coach Mr Weigen

Raffles Touch Rugby – Team of 2015, along with their coach Mr Weigen

In the end, Raffles Touch Rubgy secured 5th placing; while it was not a medal finish, it was certainly a commendable improvement from the previous year. When interviewed, Vice-captain Rachel Kwek and Captain Riddhi Anbalagan said, “We could have done much better, but we’re very proud of the team for pushing it till the end, especially given the circumstances. We really put in our best for the last few games.”  It was later learned that due to the World Rugby League this year, the Inter-Schools Championships was modified to be a one-day tournament with 20 minute games instead of 40 minutes, with schools split into two groups instead of a round-robin format. RI had a very tough group in both the first and third rounds, having had to play defending champions SRJC twice.

Moreover, as the entire competition was held on one day, the players’ mental and physical endurance were tested more than ever before – the teams had to make it or break it. And indeed, what a fight it was. Playing 5 games over 7 hours is no easy feat, and the players gave their all despite sustaining several injuries on their hand, ankle, and knee. Some J3 and J4 seniors who came down also commented that the players ran very hard and put in their best effort; RI had came a long way since they first came together as a team, and they were very proud of them. And we, too, at Raffles Press, are proud of them.

List of players:

Low Yi Fen (1), Chermin Tan (2), Chew Jing Xuan (3), Sandra Teo (4), Tan Jia YI (5), Lim Rui Qi (6), Riddhi Anbalagan (7), Tabitha Foo (8), Claire Ho (9), Rachel Kwek (10), Tay Hui Wen (11), Isabel Soh (12), Mazie Tan (13), Tiffany Chan (14), Kelly Ann Pereira (16), Lim Wan Ling (20)

Edit: The score line for the RI-ACSI match was 2-1 to RI instead of what was previously posted as 3-1. The two SRJC matches were also 4-0 instead of 5-0. We sincerely apologize for the mistakes.

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