By Hari Kope (16S06H)
This was a journey defined by hardship, constant setbacks and a steely resolve to overcome all odds.
The Rafflesian ruggers started their 2016 season strongly with a win against tough opponents ACJC with a scoreline of 19-12 and went on to perform very well in the preliminary rounds winning 5 out of 6 games. This included a dominating win against arch-rivals Saint Andrews in the group stages by a score of 30-3 which sealed RI a spot in the semi-finals. After finishing second in the preliminary round-robins, RI was slotted into a bracket facing Saints again in the semi-finals. This time however, the Saints were back hungrier and with a raucous crowd behind them fought much harder in the knockout round with the first half ending 0-0.
Our Ruggers in action
Right after the second half started, our ruggers were very clinical in their moves and scored a try to get ahead 5-0. However, against the run of play the Saints levelled through an interception and the score was back at a nail biting 5-5. Our kicker stepped up to the task and scored two penalties to ensure a final scoreline of 11-5 and after a long wait of 3 years, Raffles Rugby was in the A division finals again. This victory was a bittersweet one though as vice-captain and top try scorer so far in the season Ivar Johann Lassesen suffered an ankle injury which ruled him out of the finals. This compounded the team’s already long injury list which included their captain, the other vice-captain and some of their best players.
Our ruggers went into the finals against powerhouses and defending champions ACSI who they had also previously lost to in the group stages. We started on the backfoot as ACSI took us by surprise early scoring 3 tries in quick succession and converting them all to take a strong hold over the game at 21-0. The team refused to bow down and fought back hard and had two to three near scoring opportunities which were saved in last ditch attempts by the ACSI backline. ACSI too continued to press strong and were able to consolidate their lead to 26-0 at halftime. In the second half we bounced back to get on the board through a penalty which was converted by inside centre Christopher Mak. However, the constant pressure from the ACSI attack meant that we could not get back possession enough and eventually we succumbed to a loss.
But it was clear that the Rafflesian spirit was strong in all the spectators and the team as we gathered for a huddle to celebrate the achievements of a very special batch of ruggers. Sure there may have been some disappointment but looking back, this was truly a momentous season for them. This was a journey of a band of ruggers who came together and achieved what many thought would not have been possible.