The FWD South China Tigers won their first ever Global Rapid Rugby home game, against Singapore’s Asia Pacific Dragons this afternoon at Aberdeen Sports Ground, 29-19. The humid conditions and heavy grounds kept both sides from fully displaying the ball in play characteristics of Global Rapid Rugby, with temperatures peaking at 30 degrees at game time and with 90% humidity leaving the ball greasy and contributing to a number of unforced errors, particularly from the visitors.

The first half went exactly as planned for the Tigers as they blitzed the Dragons with three unanswered tries for a 21-0 lead after 15 minutes. Fullback Nathan De Thierry scored his first Rapid Rugby try in the opening minute as the Tigers started hot. They kept that intensity for the duration of the half, denying the Dragons both possession and territory in the early stages.

The Tigers nearly scored a second try after three minutes, but Tom Varndell could not collect his grubber kick ahead in the corner. Centre Lewis Warner found space in the Dragons midfield on the next attacking possession to push the lead to 14-0 after fly half Glyn Hughes’ second conversion.

Minutes later it was the Tigers other international winger, Fiji 2016 gold medallist Samisoni Viriviri, who was on the spot to collect a well-weighted chip to the corner to dot down for a third try. Hughes’ conversion put Tigers up 21-0.

Despite the high scoring rate early on, the first half was more measured than what we have seen so far from these teams in Global Rapid Rugby, with both sides perhaps realising that the game is as much marathon as sprint, as their earlier outings against the Western Force would attest - both teams allowed the Force to come back and win games in the second half.

Beset by travel delays and a washed out captains run the day prior, with inclement weather plaguing the build-up to the game, the Dragons looked rusty with numerous unforced errors and loose passing damaging their scoring opportunities in the first half, which were also hampered by strong try-line defence from the Tigers, who weathered multi-phase attacks on their line in both halves. The significant efforts the Tigers spent on scrum training this week also paid off handsomely as the forwards held their own in the set piece.

The backs meanwhile effectively kept the Dragons’ big men out of the game for long periods with clever kicks behind the defence keeping their weightier opponents in reverse.

Dragons finally got on the board at the end of the half after a sustained patch of possession that saw them putting their bulky strike men into space in short carry positions. The Tigers’ one on one tackling went off the boil under the pressure, allowing the Dragons chunk gains and as they drove to the Tigers try-line. Their first score came off an attacking line-out that the defence had initially stopped, but the visitors re-set their attack well and their second effort saw them over the line. The conversion cut the lead to 21-7.

The Tigers responded immediately, with a pretty try from Luke van der Smit on his Rapid Rugby debut. A barn-storming run from the former South Africa Sevens academy player brought the ball into the Dragons 22 and the big No.8 stayed with the play in support after making a nice offload. He received the return pass with space to crash over in the corner. Hughes missed the conversion leaving the half-time score 29-7 in favour of the hosts.

Hughes scored first for Tigers in the second half with a penalty shortly after kick-off to push the lead to 29-7, but the visitors were the more direct side down the final stretch, and were rewarded for their efforts with two tries in the final stanza, to close the gap to 29-19. A third Dragons try, potentially a nine-point POWER Try that would have closed the gap to a single point, was disallowed by the television match official in the dying stages for a knock-on at the line, letting the Tigers off the hook as they ran out the clock to win.

The late score allowed kept the Tigers out of the double bonus - crucial for their hopes of catching the Western Force at the top of the table. The Tigers now have five points, four for the win and a single bonus point for scoring four or more tries, leaving them 7 points behind the Force. The Tigers will travel to Singapore for the return leg next Sunday, with the Force playing first in Singapore and then Hong Kong in May to conclude the Asian portion of the Showcase Series.

Coach Craig Hammond was pleased to get the win saying, “I think both sides really did their homework. We needed this one to get on the ladder and keep up our chase on the Force, but we can’t look past next week. The Dragons will really be wanting to get that result at home, and I don’t expect there is going to be any let down in the physicality next week.

“It will come down to who can work smarter, I think. We will have to analyse everything from today, but we are already looking forward to next Sunday in Singapore.”

“We started well, and upped the pace a bit more in the second half, when they wanted to slow things down, so I’m pleased with the first 20 minutes and with the pace in the game, but in the second half we dropped off too much and that is something we must eliminate for next Sunday,” said co-captain and scrumhalf Liam Slatem.

“It was a really physical second half,” said back rower and Tigers co-captain James Cunningham, “They came out firing, threw the ball around a bit more and got a bit of success with that, but at the end of the day we got the result we came for,” said back rower and co-captain James Cunningham.

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