By Grace Lau (18S03I), Nadine Staes-Polet (18A01B) and Soh Gek Shuen (18S03B)
Photos courtesy of Ho Kai En (19S03C) and parents of the rugby players
After defeating ACJC in the semi-finals, long-time rivals Raffles Institution and Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) met once again in the highly anticipated National A-Division Rugby Finals on 15 May. The overcast skies did little to dampen the palpable excitement of the crowd, as Queenstown Stadium boasted a massive turnout despite the heavy rain. Spectators waited for the rain to let up with bated breath and immediately erupted into loud cheers when it was announced that the lightning alert had been lifted and the game would go on.
As the players from RI and ACS(I) formed two silent lines on the damp field under the close scrutiny of hundreds of spectators, the resolution to break their rivals’ winning streak was evident from the determined expressions on their faces.
From the outset, the game was test of grit and skills, as ACSI fought to prove their mettle as defending champions. The ACS(I) team got off to a ferocious start, scoring all 26 points in a dominating first half performance, while holding RI to zero. ACS(I) scored four tries through Shane Duggan [ACS(I) #15], Benjamin Lim [ACS(I) #2], Josh Quan [ACS(I) #11] and Matthew Robinson (#9). A try is scored successfully when the ball comes into contact with the ground behind the opponent’s goal line. Rugger Matthew Robinson also adeptly added three conversions, which are kicks taken from a point in line where the ball was grounded to the space between the opposition’s goalposts and above the crossbar.
Halftime saw the spectators abuzz with excitement. Despite ACSI’s strong start, all hope was not lost. On the contrary, tension soared ever higher as the spectators were determined to cheer their loudest and spur our ruggers to the top of their game when the second half began.
Not to be thrown off without a challenge, RI approached the second half with an astounding display of teamwork, intercepting possession multiple times to halt ACSI’s swift assault up the field. Getting into stride, the RI team fought hard to turn the game back in their favour, with Gideon Kee (RI #7) scoring the school’s first try.
Bervyn Wong (RI #18) swiftly rose to the occasion with a conversion, bringing the score to 26-7. With tension at an all-time high, spectators cheered with renewed vigour as our ruggers began to get into their groove.
Russel Quek (RI #19) made it across the try line for another score, and two more from Bervyn cut their deficit to 12. Even as time threatened to run out, neither our ruggers nor the spectators lost hope, giving their best on-field and cheering their hearts out from the stands. Yet, despite RI’s valiant effort, the team succumbed to a loss with the final score at 26-14.
As our ruggers walked towards the spectators, their disappointment was evident on their faces. The mere hour on the field was barely an accurate representation of the vast amount of effort and time they had devoted to their sport.
In spite of it all, as the dejected ruggers huddled together, one thing was clear: the Rafflesian spirit displayed that day was exceptional. Quoting Chloe Han (18SO3I), a spectator who was disappointed with the results of the match: “I felt that all our ruggers pushed through despite the odds, and I think they should take this experience in their stride and focus on improving. They can only go up from here!”
Our team had played with remarkable determination and sportsmanship even as they were falling behind, values which no title could adequately encapsulate. The blow of their defeat was overshadowed by a sense of pride in the effort and courage shown on the field.
We are proud of our A Div rugby players, who fought with commendable spirit and fortitude even as the odds were stacked against them. Fighting to the finish, they can rightly hold their heads high for a season well executed.
1st half: ACSI – 26, RI – 0
2nd half: ACSI – 0, RI – 14