By Marilyn Kang (17A01B)
Photos by Esther Chin (17S06D) and Phoebe Zhou (17S06E)
The air was heavy with anticipation, heightened by the banging of drums and the roars of the crowd. Familiar faces turned solemn as they ran onto the field, armoured in striped white and green.
As per tradition, Friday the 20th saw the 23rd annual Kiwi Cup between RI’s and SAJC’s respective rugby teams taking place in our home turf. For over 11 years, the absence of the coveted Cup has been keenly felt by the school. The force with which the team determined to bring back the trophy would later prove to defeat history.
Almost immediately, Raffles scored a try, securing 5-0 against their longtime rival. The audience, which consisted of secondary and junior college students, sprang to their feet. Their collective gasp told of their hopes that this score would be the first of many to come.
This was not to be, however, an easy victory. The Saints caught up soon after, quickly gaining on Raffles.The field saw the teams go at each other in forceful tackles, the aggression building until it culminated in a brief confrontation between two players on the field, albeit soon restrained. With that, the Saints emerged with two consecutive tries, now taking the lead.
High hopes turned to desperation, with the cup so much within reach. The gameplay from Raffles metamorphosed with renewed impetus, as they displayed the strength of their teamwork through strong successive passes. At one point, one of the Saints had rushed to breach the passes by tackling Player 15, Ryan Leong (17S06B), but was foiled by his quick pass. Despite still hitting the ground, this equalized the score, which was soon bolstered by a string of successful tries by the team.
This took the tally to a steady increase, from 5, with several more tries and a conversion, which augured well for a Raffles victory. Notably, Jediel Yew from J1 scored 2 of the tries. Other players on the team, like Fabian Wee (17S07D) also pressed on despite having an injured ankle.
To spectators like Abdul Qayyum (17A01B), Raffles had “lost for so long” that it has become, for him, a “yearly tradition to tell my rugby friends that they’ll lose.” As the game progressed, however, it became increasingly evident that this tradition was no more.
Though the score was heavily tilted in our favour, it was not until the astounding finality of the whistle that the team dared to believe that they had secured a victory. Cheers erupted as the game drew to a close; in the frenzy, water bottles were even seen tossed into the air. Spectators swarmed across the rich green field to surround the team in a thick embrace, swollen with pride.
As Brandon Yeo (17S06M) tearfully commented in retrospect, “Even as the final whistle blew, I was still in disbelief, but I couldn’t stop the tears flowing down my face when I witnessed all the supporters with smiles on their faces storming the field.”
It was the moment that the team had been pining for, and could not have been done without months of hard work beforehand. It took a while, but the moment had come. Finally, they made history.