Guam claim first Asian Rugby title in a decade with win over China

Guam claim first Asian Rugby title in a decade with win over China

Article – Asia Rugby 

Guam beat China 34-17 in a wet weather battle to claim the Asia Rugby Championship Division III East (ARC D3E) title in Jakarta. The win gave Guam its first tournament victory since joining the Asia Rugby family in 2004 and marks the first time they have been promoted from Division III level.

Last year’s champion China will now play the hosts Indonesia on Saturday (13 Jun) to decide second place.

As in the opening round on Sunday (7 Jun), when Guam beat Indonesia 17-6, it was a tight affair early on between last year’s two division finalists. China ran away with that match, winning 41-10, but it was Guam who turned in the commanding performance today in Jakarta.

Guam took first blood in the 11th minute with captain and flanker Robert Leon Guerrero pouncing on a ball that squeaked out the back of a Chinese scrum under pressure on their own tryline to put his side ahead 5-0.

Scrumhalf Ratu Uluiviti added the conversion, his first of 14 points on the day, to give Guam a 7-0 edge. Guam’s forwards were exemplary in the wet weather, scoring three of the team’s four tries today with No 8 Jacob Flores and prop Jonny Borja adding tallies in the second half.

Silky China fullback and team captain Ma Chong showcased a dangerous boot and some good tactical sense this afternoon and will be a threat to the Indonesia Rhinos on Saturday. Chong he collected his first penalty in the 16th minute to put China on the board, 3-7.

But Guam centre Randy Mendiola found space in the defence moments later to cross over and push his side out to a 14-3 lead after Uluiviti’s conversion.

China defended tenaciously for the remainder of the half, and took some reward for their efforts when centre Liu Jun Kiu countered with a long ambling run in the 39th minute. Running a good line in support, Ma Chong was on the spot to take the offload and cross over for a try spot on half-time. Ma’s conversion of his try brought China within striking distance at 14-10 at the break.

But it was all Guam in the second half as they posted 20 points in the final forty minutes to romp home 34-10.  Uluiviti added two second half penalties and two conversions to ensure that Guam wasn’t threatened in a comfortable display for the first-time champions.

Uluiviti’s first penalty of the second half came in the 47th minute, pushing Guam out to a 17-10 lead before No 8 Jacob Flores scored Guam’s third try just five minutes later. Uluiviti’s successful conversion gave Guam a 24-10 buffer early on in the third quarter.

China had little in reply after the break as Guam scored their bonus point (fourth) try – again through the forwards with prop Jonny Borja crossing over in the 61st minute giving Guam a 29-10 lead. Uluiviti’s conversion and a successful penalty in the 74th minute pushed Guam out to a 34-10 lead with minutes to play.

To their credit, China never conceded and scored a consolation try through No 8 Chen Kai Wen with Ma’s conversion bringing the final score to 34-17.

Guam top the table on 11 points after collecting the bonus point win today for scoring four tries or more while China and Indonesia remain on zero points. China and Indonesia will face off in the second place play-off on Saturday (13 Jun) at 15.00.

Guam will now be promoted to next year’s Division II competition alongside Singapore (relegated from Division I in 2015), United Arab Emirates and Division III Central champions Uzbekistan.  Thailand and Chinese Taipei will route to Division III next year alongside China, Indonesia and India.

Guam Rugby Union President Stephen Grantham thanked the players and coaches for their efforts saying, “The pressure on them was huge having come second in this tournament for a number of years,” he said.

Grantham particularly thanked Coach Tony “TP” Penn from Taranaki in New Zealand, Doctor Tom Mick from New York and Peter Hunt from Hamilton, New Zealand who have been with Guam Rugby over the past few years “as we have tried to scale this particular mountain”.

“They, along with former coaches Willie Hetaraka and Dean Kaio – instilled a belief in the Guam players while former captain Paul Claros was largely responsible for the improved fitness and the level of commitment of the squad over the same period. These men give up their time, energy and knowledge to help our small union and its players. We are very grateful for their support and happy to show that their combined efforts have been rewarded … finally!” Grantham added.

Hosts Indonesia will play China in the second/third place play-off on Saturday at 15.00 at the British School Jakarta.