Hearts on the Line: Rugby Finals 2019

By Rachel Leong (20A01A), Megan Soh (20A01B), Mah Xiao Yu (20A01B)
Photos courtesy of Jensen Huang (20S06T) of Raffles Photographic Society and the Raffles Rugby Parents Association

On 16 May 2019, busloads of supporters filled Queenstown Stadium. The atmosphere was brimming with excitement and anticipation, yet there was also tension in the air. It was clear that it would be a tough battle ahead. This year would be Raffles’ fourth going against Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) (ACS(I)), an opponent with a daunting five year winning streak. As both teams did their warm-ups on the field, councillors in Team Raffles polo tees handed out inflatable clappers, face paint and stickers, in efforts to hype up the crowd and drum up as much support as possible for the Raffles ruggers.

The players then knelt down on the ground and wrapped their arms around one another’s backs, a show of unity against all odds. It was this motivating force of comradeship that would keep their spirits up and keep them going throughout the game. In intense concentration and focus, the captain gave them a final pep talk and the team psyched themselves up for one of the most important matches of their JC sports career.

Raffles ruggers looking on at the game in support of the players.

Now set to give their all, the Raffles ruggers made their way to the front of the stadium to the warm reception and applause of the audience. With chins held high, exuding auras of utmost confidence, the team captains, along with the teachers-in-charge and competition committee, went around shaking hands with their teams. A councillor raised the Raffles flag high and cheers resounded once more as both teams prepared to start the game. With a final rallying cry, fists pumped up in the air and hearts beating as one, the Raffles ruggers were ready to face their longtime rival once more.

The game started off strong, both teams eager to be the first to score. All the players grappled persistently for the ball, which was constantly kicked and thrown from one side of the field to the other. But with strong defences and forceful tackles, it was clear to see that ACS(I) and Raffles were quite evenly matched and neither was able to break through and score. Both schools amped up their cheering in response to this tug-of-war and ardent roars of encouragement reverberated throughout both sides of the bleachers. Finally, 13 minutes into the game, ACS(I) scored the first try of the game after breaking through a solid line of Raffles defenders, winning them five points. With that try, they went on to score a conversion, earning them another two points. Seeing this, the Raffles supporters’ spirits were slightly dampened, but it did not take long before their feelings of disappointment were also converted into determination and encouragement towards the team.

Ruggers getting ready for a line-out.

After a short timeout for the teams to regroup, the game resumed with renewed intensity. Muhammad Wafiq Aqil B W S (19A01C), wielding the ball with tremendous bravery, charged against the incoming horde of ACSI ruggers fearlessly. Later, Gideon Kee (19S03P) tore across almost half the field before being tackled. These bold acts of courage, however, did not come without consequences. Joshua Choy (19S06G) felt the brunt of an especially violent scrimmage, clutching his face while lying on the ground. Eventually, with a great deal of pain, he rose to his feet and left the field with loud applause echoing behind him, remaining all the while proud and undeterred. Dillion Chong (19S06R) had also been unfortunately injured, having to limp off the field as another player took his place on the field. Regardless, both the injured players retained their sense of composure and took the misfortunes in their stride. They listened to the impassioned cheers of the audience members who were commending them for a job well done, and thanking them for the painful sacrifices they had to make.

A Raffles rugger valiantly braving fierce tackling while defending the ball with all his might.

With the conclusion of the first half, the team was down 7-0 and tensions were soaring; Raffles supporters were on the edge of their seats, anxious for the tables to be turned. They rose to their feet with renewed purpose, cheering their lungs out as the steady beat of the drum continued, like a Rafflesian heart that never falters in faith. “We, the supporters, are part of this match too,” Chew Jay Hong (19A13A), the Student Council President, bellowed during halftime, with a deep sense of conviction. “We need every one of us to step up.” And it was this passion that drove many councillors and supporters to cheer themselves hoarse, to give their all along with the rugby team.

The beginning of the second half matched the first in vigour. All eyes were trained on the ball and the players hurled themselves at it constantly. Their passion and resilience allowed them to push their way into ACS(I)’s defence area within the first ten minutes. And it definitely paid off when Raffles was given a penalty kick and scored three points for the team—the first points for Raffles since the game started.

A rugger from each team reaching high up for the ball, with their teammates’ support.

Almost halfway into the second half, the ball was kicked high into the air, arcing over the players’ heads and towards the opposite end of the field. It seemed like nobody would be there to catch it, but in a flash of green that tore across the field, Muhammad Wafiq Aqil B W S was there in an instant and caught the ball swiftly. Once again, the Raffles ruggers broke into ACS(I)’s defence perimeter, and in a frozen moment of bated breath, Gideon Kee scored a touchdown, winning them yet another five points and a round of exhilarated roars. Finally, Raffles’ score was pulling ahead, leading 8-0 in the second half. The crowd of Rafflesians went into a wild frenzy, leaping off their seats to scream with renewed vigour, cheering energetically for the team. Spurred on, the Raffles ruggers continued their game with reinvigorated hope surging through their veins.

However, it was not long before ACS(I) scored another try, followed by a conversion. This brought them up to eight points, escalating the tensions as both teams were now on equal footing. The councillors, sensing how heated the match was becoming, led the school in the Rafblood cheer, where Rafflesians channelled all their energy and spirit into the hope of a Rafflesian victory. Morale boosted and charged with determination, the Raffles ruggers continued their tough battle for the championship.

Raffles ruggers going in for the kill.

Both teams gave their utmost effort, with powerful scrimmages happening often. A particularly memorable one started off with Raffles kicking the ball high and far, only for ACS(I) to get ahold of it and return it to the other side of the court with a strong kick of their own. Audience members watched in anticipation, heads swerving side to side and eyes wide, only to be broken by cries of relief when Raffles regained control of the ball thanks to Bervyn Wong’s (19S02A) quick reflexes and solid catch.

Despite all efforts, however, the game came to an end without any new goals. Even though Raffles put up a tough fight and battled till the end, ACS(I) emerged as champions of the A Division Police Cup. The evident sense of disappointment among all Rafflesians notwithstanding, a new desire arose among the spectators to cheer the team up and thank them for all their effort. And so, the Raffles supporters in the bleachers broke out in applause to convey to the team that regardless of the result, they had done the school proud.

A moment of victory and a moment of loss.

Out on the field, the Raffles ruggers exemplified their strongest virtue that had sustained them from start to end—togetherness in the face of all adversity. United in solace, the team comforted one another with reassuring pats on the back and brotherly hugs, even between the coach and players. Much more heartbreakingly, they helped one another get back on their feet, providing support and holding tightly onto those who were injured and limping. The team had already begun the game with a small squad as they had already lost players to injuries even before the match. One such player was Zhu Hongpeng (19S06I), who “sacrificed his shoulder to save a try […] in March.” Joshua and Dillion had, too, put themselves on the line for the team and a shot at victory, and now the team had become even smaller. “It was emotional to see [one of our teammates subbed out early on during the match and] have his season end early, but it was motivation for fighting the rest of the match,” vice-captain Sek Ray (19S06G) told us.

As the team approached the bleachers with regret and frustration etched on their faces, the school broke out in a final Rafblood cheer in appreciation of their dedication. The team responded by singing the Institution Anthem and were soon joined by the spectators. The familiar melody of the anthem evoked a deep sense of pathos among the spectators, and it was at that moment that the pain of loss was truly felt. After all, the team had trained rigorously for months and shed blood, sweat and tears in hopes of emerging victorious, only to fall short.

And yet, they remained bravely stoic through it all.

Shoulder to shoulder stands a team of brothers in all but blood.

The event ended with the Raffles ruggers gathering for a final team huddle, with team captain Gideon Kee standing in the centre giving his teammates one more consolation. He clutched tightly onto the pole of the Raffles flag, letting it soar high and proud, undeterred by the circumstances. “I felt extremely heartbroken after the match,” Gideon admitted. “Most players gave their all in that match. Some weren’t even suppose[d] to play in their condition but they held in their pain for the sake of the team. As captain, I felt that I didn’t bring the result my team deserved.” Despite feelings of regret, however, the strength of their brotherhood shone through as they encouraged one another to hold their heads high through the tears and helped those who were injured off the field.

I’m grateful for my team. It’s not easy to find people who are willing to die for you. My team is my family.

Gideon Kee (19S03P)

And although the J2s would be leaving their found family soon, they were determined that their juniors will carry on their legacy and continue to bring glory for Raffles. “Don’t forget why you are training so hard and always remember: the pain is temporary, but glory is forever,” asserted Ray. In the meantime, Gideon declared resolutely, “Bow to no one.”

Raffles Rugby has displayed comradeship and fervent hope in the midst of all struggle, and ultimately, they have made their mark in courageous pursuit of their passion till the very end. Though it was a hard match, the players’ dedication, passion and immense fighting spirit were evident in the way they went all out from start to finish, never losing hope and never giving up halfway. We sincerely thank the Raffles rugby team for giving it their all in the finals. Raffles Press would like to wish Raffles Rugby all the very best in their upcoming endeavours, and may they continue to keep our colours flying!

Congratulations, Raffles ruggers!

Team members

#15 – Gideon Kee An (19S03P) — Captain
#5 – Sek Ray (19S06G) — Vice-captain
#2 – Goh Kai Jen Nicholas (20S03F)
#3 – Aiman Jianhao B Ikram (19S05B)
#4 – Kee Yun Shao (19S06M)
#6 – Chamapun Kongpote (19S03S)
#7 – Izaac Tay Yi Ren (19S05B)
#8 – Chong Dillion (19S06R)
#9 – Jonathan Christopher Lim Shao Hwei (20S06K)
#10 – Wong Wei Feng Bervyn (19S02A)
#11 – Spencer Wee Ye Kai (20S07A)
#12 – Muhammad Wafiq Aqil B W S (19A01C)
#13 – Goh Zheng Hui, Javille (19S07C)
#14 – Murugaiah Jayaprakash (20S06T)
#16 – Ho Kai En (19S03C)
#17 – Joshua Choy Weng Yew (19S06G)
#18 – Jordan Poon (19S05B)
#20 – Joshua Poon (19A01C)
#21 – Ang Ben Yao, Aldrick (20S06T)
#23 – Jordan Teo (19S06K)
#24 – Ho Jun Wei, Matthew (20S06U)
#25 – Lai Jiang Yao, Joshua (19S06T)
#26 – Kollaart Leon Samuel (20S06S)
Zhu Hongpeng (19S06I)

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