ASIA PACIFIC DRAGONS TURN TABLES ON FWD SOUTH CHINA TIGERS WITH WIN IN SINGAPORE
FWD South China Tigers lost to the Asia Pacific Dragons today at Queenstown Stadium in Singapore, 41-26. It was a mirror image of last week’s clash, when the Tigers beat the Dragons 29-19 in Hong Kong, right down to the humidity and high temperatures in Singapore and the host team building an early lead.
After conceding 21 points in the opening quarter in Aberdeen on Easter, a chastened Dragons team came out breathing fire today, scoring through scrumhalf Rowan Gowse in the fourth minute, to take a 7-0 lead.
The Tigers replied equally well, with fly half Glyn Hughes weighting a beautiful kick-off deep, causing the Dragons problems on their line. The Tigers turned the ball over and some quick hands from Lewis Warner helped put No.8 Josh Hrstich over untouched for his first Global Rapid Rugby try. Hughes struck his conversion to level the score 7-all after five minutes.
But it was the Dragons the rest of the way in the first half, with the hosts enjoying 62% of the possession in the opening period and playing most of the rugby in the Tigers half. The Tigers would claw their way back to even in the possession stakes by the final whistle, but they never managed to mount sustained attacks in their opponents red zone.
The Dragons scored thrice more in the first half before the Tigers replied with a driving maul that threatened the Dragons’ try-line with five minutes left in the half. As the ball came flying out of the maul, the referee sent the Dragons prop to the sin-bin for infringing and awarded the penalty try, closing the gap to 24-14 at the break.
The Tigers had opportunities to come back in a second half that saw them enjoying the man advantage twice in the final 35 minutes, but a magnificent home defensive effort proved up to the task.
On attack, the hosts were sharper than last Sunday’s error-strewn performance and finally brought their big men into play with an attacking scrum on the Tigers line soon after kick-off. This time it was the Tigers turn to concede a penalty try, giving the Dragons a 31-14 lead with 30 minutes remaining.
Once again, the Tigers replied with a try off the re-start as hooker Alex Post retained the ball to set up a driving maul that gained 20 metres. Scrumhalf Liam Slatem channelled the ball to reserve No.8 Luke van der Smit close to the line. The big South African carried for a few crucial metres in heavy traffic before being felled, with prop Fai Solomona scooping the ball off the grass and diving over for his debut try. Hughes’ conversion closed the gap to ten and gave the Tigers a glimmer of hope as they trailed 31-21.
Things looked even more positive minutes later when centre Aiseli Tikoirotuma was sin-binned, giving the Tigers another numerical advantage late. But the home side’s defence - and a well slotted penalty from Latuime Fosita, whose move from full back to fly half today paid dividends for the Dragons, opened the gap to 34-21, putting paid to the Tigers’ ambitions. Tikoirotuma made up for his sins by setting up a late try for wing Zac Harrison-Jones with the conversion bringing the score to 41-21.
Van der Smit and Jack Neville both made big contributions from the reserves bench today, breaking down the first lines of the defence with some excellent ball-carrying, but the Tigers could not sustain that momentum in the ensuing phase play. The two were ultimately rewarded on the Tigers’ last try of the game when van der Smit showed good vision out wide with a looping outlet pass to Samisoni Viriviri, who shovelled it back inside to Neville for the try on his debut, bringing the final score to 41-26 after Hughes missed the conversion.
Tigers coach Craig Hammond was “bitterly disappointed” with the loss saying, “They were a different beast today and we knew they were going to be. Full credit to them, they really reversed the roles from last week and got off to a very good start. We created our opportunities but we could not capitalise. I know conditions were tough, and it was hot, but they were tough for both sides and I think we let ourselves down with our lack of accuracy.”
The win gives the Dragons their first points on the table with five, four for the win and a bonus for scoring four or more tries; but as was the case last week, the Dragons conceded a late try that kept them from securing the double bonus for a win by three tries or more.
The Western Force now lead the Asian Showcase Series log on a perfect 12 points from two outings, with Tigers and Dragons level on five points each. The Force will begin their Asian swing with matches in Singapore (5 May) and Hong Kong (12 May) to close out the regional taster.