Rugby: Saints edge out ACS(I) for long awaited title

Rugby: Saints edge out ACS(I) for long awaited title

It was a wait that took 23 years, but St Andrew's Secondary (SAS) finally tasted sweet victory again on thursday in the Schools National C Division rugby championship.

They outlasted defending champions Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) 14-13 at the Yio Chu Kang Stadium, lifting the Goh Keng Swee Shield for the first time since 1990. The side last made the final in 2008.

Said St Andrew's captain Viviyan Philip: "I can't describe how happy I am. Winning is good enough, but to make history is beyond words."

The Saints had entered the final on an eight-match winning streak, including a 10-7 victory over ACS(I) in the preliminary rounds, but securing a second win over their rivals was never a given.

After all, it was ACS(I)'s 21st straight final appearance. They have won the title 16 times since 1993.

Said St Andrew's coach Nicholas Dance: "A win is never expected when you play ACS(I). We came out firing but they worked their way back."

St Andrew's got off to a dream start, with scrum-half Bryan Chan and outside centre Viviyan each scoring a try within 20 minutes. Both were converted by the team captain.

ACS(I) responded with a try from Mikha Khaleel Abuthinin and conversion from vice-captain Lim Shern to narrow the deficit to 10-14 at half-time, even creeping to within a point of the Saints' lead in the second half. Some rock-solid defending, however, got St Andrew's over the finish line in the end.

Added Viviyan, a Secondary 2 student: "The key to our win was teamwork. It was really hard to hang on (to the lead) but we didn't give up until the end."

ACS(I) coach Adrian Chong rued some nervous errors that included several botched passes by his charges, as well as the loss of his best player Siew Hao Ren to injury early in the match.

"It's not easy to fight back in the final, but I think the boys did it and I'm extremely proud of the way they fought," he said.

"We were just a whisker away and it could have gone either way. We are obviously disappointed that we didn't win, but quite happy that we did ourselves proud."

maychen@sph.com.sg


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