By Abigail Ang (18S06B), Lim Jing Rong (18A03A) and Ling Young Loon (18S07A)
Under the floodlights of the National Stadium, the field was empty but for two orderly lines: one yellow and blue, and the other green, black and white.
It was the afternoon of the ‘A’-Division Rugby Championship Finals. The tensions and stakes were high. Last year’s Finals had also seen RI and ACSI pitted against each other, with the latter emerging as champions for the third year running. ACSI was determined to defend their title, while RI was determined to break their rival’s streak.
ACSI made fierce dashes for the try line as soon as the match commenced. RI countered each ferocious attack effectively, but they were unable to gain enough momentum to make their own attacks.
It was around the 8 minute mark when ACSI scored their first try.
ACSI’s early lead, though not surprising from the current title-holder and powerhouse, nevertheless shook many of the Rafflesians on the benches, if not on the field.
Our boys fought with skill and grit, but were unable to make much progress until the 21 minute mark, when Raffles scored a penalty kick. This brought the score to 5-3 to ACSI.
Even with 10 minutes left, ACSI’s attacks remained relentless. Much of the remaining time was spent on RI’s side of the field, with some near misses at our try line, prompting yells of ‘defend, defend’ from the RI stands.
23 minutes in, Benjamin Lim (#16) from ACSI scored another try for his team. That, along with a successful “conversion” kick, brought the score to a total of 12-3.
The ball finally entered our possession as Jediel Yew (#14) stole it. For the next 6 minutes, Raffles gave our opponents a tough fight, attempting multiple tries and keeping the ball close to ACSI’s try line. RI came tantalisingly close – less than two metres away – but the horn blew before the ruggers could secure a try.
Halftime ended with the score still at 12 for ACSI and 3 for Raffles.
Eager to close the gap in points, our ruggers made smooth passes, but were tackled twice near the centre of the field before they could come close to ACSI’s tryline.
One spectator commented that “they are even [in terms of skills], but ACSI can sneak in their runners ‘cos they’re damn fast.”
This was apparent at the 46 minute mark, when the yellow-and-black-striped players (bumblebees, as one spectator called them) were able to pass the ball quickly from one another despite being tackled by our team, maintaining possession of the ball.
Our school spirit remained unabated, however, as the supporters continued to cheer on our team with gusto.They were absorbed in every second of the game.
Many in the stands were praying for a try, followed by a successful conversion. Hopes soared when our team finally broke through the ACSI defences towards the end of the game. However, it was not meant to be, as our team’s last attempt at a try was unsuccessful. The horn sounded, and ACSI’s title as Rugby champions was secured for the fourth year running.
This result was greeted with disappointment and pain, as evident from many of the players’ faces. Indeed, their short hour on the field was not enough to bear testimony to all the late nights, muscle aches and even injuries they had endured for the past year or more in preparation for this day.
All this was not forgotten by the spectators in the stands, however.
As Mr Magendiran said after the match, “[The match was] quite an emotional rollercoaster. At the end of the day we lost, but I am still very proud of the boys. The score did not do [their efforts] justice.
“I know the boys are disappointed, but they can hold their heads high. They’ve done well.”
Indeed, for in the team’s excellent display of sportsmanship, determination and grace that day, there was no defeat, only pride.
1st Half: ACSI – 12, RI – 3
2nd Half: ACSI – 0, RI – 0