By Alison Tan (23S03A) and Tang Lanyun (23S05A)
The stadium was abuzz with anticipation on the afternoon of 18 January 2023, as supporters from RI and St. Andrew’s Junior College gathered in the cool shade to cheer on their respective rugby teams. With the match being on RI’s home turf, droves of students from across all 6 years filled out the stands and the area adjacent to the field. Students stationed at the front of the stands waved the Institution flag; others milled about, waiting for the action to begin.
Minutes later, a cheer rose from the crowd as the Raffles Ruggers, school colours emblazoned across their jerseys, made their way through the throng of spectators. Both teams stood as the anthem of each school rang out, accompanied by a chorus of voices from either end of the stands. Then, with faces drawn and determined, the old rivals joined each other on the pitch, away from the crowd of onlookers, out of the shade and into the sun.
In line with tradition, the Saints, clad in their mighty blue and white, performed their trademark haka, a ceremonial war dance originating from the indigenous Māori people of New Zealand. Not to be outdone, the Raffles Ruggers responded—for the first time in years—with a haka of their own. In a show of defiance, the Saints then locked arms and strode towards the Ruggers in a straight line, boldly facing them down. The atmosphere was charged with tension, both teams locked in wordless confrontation.
The game kicked off to a storming start. Amidst the chaos and confusion of the opening, Raffles capitalised on the Saints’ slower tempo to launch a devastating offensive. Within the first 30 seconds, a successful try had been scored by Ilyas Kurniady bin Kamsul (#25, 23A01F), bringing the score tally to 5-0 in RI’s favour. The crowd erupted with equal parts triumph and disbelief — did that really just happen?
For many spectators, the Kiwi Cup was their first exposure to rugby, and they were unaccustomed to the speed and raw aggression that the sport often necessitates. Regardless, everyone adjusted to the pace of the game soon enough.
The explosive opening galvanised Rafflesian spirits, while the Saints, who were at an unexpectedly early deficit, quickly found their form. The ensuing half hour saw frequent tackles and skirmishes, as both sides hurled all they had at each other, drawing awed gasps from the spectators. At the 14th minute, the ball itself was flung haphazardly into the crowd.
Yet, despite their best efforts, both sides found themselves deadlocked. Each offensive from either team was countered with a resolute defence; the ball seemed to change hands every passing second. However, SA’s efforts appeared to be paying off, and as the first half drew to a close, they inched ever closer to RI’s goal line.
At last, the whistle for half-time sounded, offering both teams a temporary respite. The players, no doubt a little fatigued, trudged back to their tents to regroup. Many spectators took the opportunity to stock up on drinks and refreshments, with several Rafflesians donning black and green face paint to show their school spirit. As the 10 minutes trickled away, both sides waited eagerly for the second half of the game to begin.
The spectators were rewarded with yet another explosive start, this time by Saint Andrew’s. Within the first minute, the Saints had been awarded a penalty, which they successfully scored, bringing the scoreline to 5-3. Before long, they were making significant inroads in possession.
Sensing the mounting tension, council members on the RI Y56 side continued to rally spectators to the chants of “Raffles Dynamite” and “R-A-F-F-L-E-S”. Invigorated by the home crowd, the Raffles Ruggers held back their opponents even more fervently, but the Saints were undeterred. They fought back valiantly, earning themselves another penalty at the 45th minute, which they promptly scored. The scoreline now stood at 5-6, with SA holding the lead by just one point. With the loss of RI’s upper hand, tension reigned amongst the Rafflesian supporters; defiance and dismay were felt in equal measure.
“Let’s go Raffles!” In a bid to further invigorate the Raffles Ruggers, the Councillors whipped the crowd into yet another flurry of cheers. To everyone’s relief, this soon paid off with Jordan Lee Zhao Feng (#6, 4B) scoring a try for Raffles in the 54th minute. The spectators erupted into frenzied celebration, relishing the sudden change in fortunes, but quickly settled down again to observe the conversion.
And convert they did! As the scoreboard ticked its way up to 12-6, Rafflesian supporters once again exploded with elation at the reclamation of RI’s lead. Their attentions remained keenly on the game, as in the minutes following RI’s conversion, a skillful counterattack saw a rogue SA player sprinting towards RI’s goal line, ball in hand. It took a last-ditch tackle to send him sailing over the line, fingers just shy of the ball.
The final minutes of the game were invariably rife with tension. The Saints prowled close to RI’s goal line, warranting desperate efforts to keep them at bay. Despite this, the Raffles Ruggers held the line bravely, and the final whistle was blown just as the ball sailed into the trees at the edge of the field — a humorous end to a nail-biting game.
By then, most of the spectators were at their feet. The crowd, which had been inching ever closer to the boundary of the pitch throughout the game, took to the field in an explosion of energy and colour, jubilant at RI’s first home victory since the pandemic began. At the centre of it all, surrounded by seas of supporters, the Raffles Ruggers raised the Kiwi Cup to thunderous applause.
When pressed for comment, Captain Tyler James Leong (#12, 23A01F) said: “Both sides put up a strong fight and I’m glad our boys were able to pull through in the end despite a 6-5 deficit going into the third quarter.”
Player Mohammad Haziq bin Mohammad Azhar (#15, 23S05A) also expressed gratitude at the exceptional turnout of supporters this year. “The cheers and presence of the supporters gave us a stronger sense of pride to play our best for the school and the people around us.”
Raffles Press would like to congratulate the Raffles Rugby Team on their well-fought victory!
#12 – Tyler James Leong (23A01F)
#25 – Ilyas Kurniady bin Kamsul (23A01F)
#7 – Enzo Senna McCully (23A01F)
#11 – Luke Chai Rong Yan (4B)
#9 – Dylan Tan Tze Kai (23S06C)
#20 – Ernest Matthias Yap (4E)
#29 – Jayden Tan Jun Jie (4K)
#30 – Rafael Low Ren Xiang (4H)
#4 – Ho Shih-Yu (23S06G)
#6 – Jordan Lee Zhao Feng (4B)
#22 – Gangisetty Venkata Datta Sai (23S02B)
#3 – Lai Yue Sheng Perry (23S06F)
#5 – Mohammed Danish Khan Bin Mohammed Noor Khan (23S03G)
#14 – Mark Lee Jun Kai (23S03P)
#23 – Titus Lim Zong Shen (4M)
#19 – Caleb Loh Sze Kai
#8 – Kyler Teh Kai En (23S03B)
#26 – Marc Aloysius Leong
#18 – Peter Huang (3L)
#16 – Gao HuaJun (3I)
#1 – Lu Yuanxi (3I)
#21 – Liu Zheming (3D)
#27 – Keane Yeo Shan Yuan (3A)
#10 – Ang Rui Liang Tristan (23S06H)
#15 – Mohammad Haziq bin Mohammad Azhar (23S05A)
#24 – Anand Isaac Sithu Tian Kai
Photo Credits: Raffles Photographic Society