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Aftrer losing to Thailand thrice last year, the Philippines managed to snatch a 41-7 victory when it mattered the most, lifting the Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy at the Aspire Warm Up and Rugby Stadium yesterday.
Having come off a really close semi-final, where they edged out Singapore 12-10, despite Sean Lynch being sent off, the Philippines showed no fatigue getting on the scoreboard first in the final with Timothy Bweheni scoring a try in the first minute itself.
Daniel Mathews converted before Vincent Young had the Philippines go 12-0 in no time.
Mathews added two tries of his own, and so did Harrison Blake, while Tommy Gilbert added one.
Thailand’s only try came in the second half through Pongsatorn Choaychoo, while Warongkorn Khamkoet converted.
“We have always come second to Thailand in the last few tournaments, last year especially. This time we brought in a very good team, and with a lot of training, it all just paid off. We really wanted this one, and now we are eager to step up to the next level,” an elated Philippines coach Frano Botica said after the final.
“In the semi-final, we had a player sent off and one in the sin bin but we were eventually able to come through that. Final is when we really showed what we were capable of and the boys performed really well.”
The win means that the Philippines won a place for their union to participate in the Asia Rugby Sevens Series, which will feature three legs and will be played later this year.
Singapore, who were looking to get back in to the Sevens Series, having had a disappointing 2016, eventually had to settle for fourth place yesterday, with the UAE thumping them 43-14 in the third place playoff.
Hosts Qatar, after losing their quarter-final to Thailand earlier in the day, bounced back with two back-to-back wins, over Pakistan (21-5) and in the fifth place playoff against Iran (24-10).
Qatar had lost to the eventual champions on Friday despite getting on the board first and even showing promise in the first few minutes of the game. That script repeated itself against Thailand, when they went down 24-5.
“The loss against the Philippines and Thailand was our mistake. We had a good start but then there was a yellow card and that was the turning point in the game,” Qatar coach Usaia Biumaiwai said.
“We lost to Thailand too despite being the first to get a try. But to look at positives our team has improved, given the few days of training that we had. In the fourth and the fifth game we played to our strengths, and won both the games.”
Captain Mubarak al-Malik said the tournament was a good learning experience for the team. “Last two games we played well as a team. It took us a little bit of time to get together. We had good players but mistakes cost us the matches. We hope not to repeat those mistakes, especially in Sevens, where the game changes quickly,” the 29-year-old forward said.
The seventh place playoff emerged as a cracker in the end with India and Pakistan facing off on the pitch. In the last few moments of the game, just when it looked like Pakistan will emerge as the winner with a 12-7 lead, India’s Prince Khatri scored his second try of the game, which was duly converted for a 14-12 victory.
“A few tough games but we managed to get a try right in the end. India vs Pakistan is different pressure but boys have played well as a team,” India coach A Sendil Kumar said. He, however, does rue that they weren’t able to better their performance in the Asia Rugby Development Sevens Series in Chennai in December 2016 when they finished sixth.
“But there is a renewed focus on the Sevens game in India now and I do see it getting better in the near future.”
Pakistan coach Shakeel Ahmed too was very optimistic about rugby’s future at home.
“Today, the experience was very good. But I don’t think these were tough matches. The loss margins were not very big. We were able to fight it out,” he said. “But we will get better. Back home, we have around 20 teams, including nine universities, 11 clubs, who play Sevens. We plan to start a Sevens circuit there this year. It is all looking up.
“Our boys have only become more confident since the last tournament, and have realised their potential and the possibilities. And I do believe that we will be able to do much better next time round.”

RESULTS & Statistics
Cup Final: Philippines 41 Thailand 7
3rd-4th: UAE 43 Singapore 14
5th-6th: Qatar 24 Iran 10
7th-8th: India 14 Pakistan 12
Jeremaia Kilicanasau (UAE) 5
Niall Statham (UAE) 5
Rakan al-Mutawaa (Qatar) 5
Sean Carey (UAE) 5
Tommy Gilbert (Philippines) 5
Daniel Mathews (Philippines) 12
Daniel Mathews (Philippines) 44 points (4 tries, 12 conversions)

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