Size matters as S’pore romp to final
02 June 11  The Strait Times  by Sanjay Nair

A NEW-LOOK Singapore rugby team stormed into the Asian Five Nations (AFN) Division One final after thumping rivals Malaysia 52-17 in yesterday’s semi-final clash in South Korea.

The Republic scored 33 unanswered points at one stage during the second half to record their biggest-ever win over their neighbours.

Singapore featured five debutants in the starting line-up for the clash at the Ansa-wa Stadium near Incheon.

They next face favourites South Korea in Saturday’s final, with a promotion spot to the AFN’s top tier up for grabs. Singapore last featured in Asia’s premier rugby competition in 2009.

South Korea defeated the Philippines 34-20 in the other semi-final.

Yesterday’s victory means Singapore have not lost to Malaysia in international rugby for 15 years.

National coach Des Thornton was pleased with his troops’ response after a tight first half.

The tie was level at 12-12 going into the interval after tries from scrum-half Azmi Suliman and debutant number eight Peter McFeely cancelled out Dineshwaran Krishnan’s opening score for the Malaysians.

‘We struggled in the first half playing against the strong wind, which was worth about 10 points in itself,’ noted Australian Thornton, who took over the post last September.

‘We were also going cross-field too often in our plays so I told the boys they needed to go straight and square to advance the ball.’

Singapore came out with all guns blazing in the second half, with debut tries from forwards Marc Warburton and Matt Head helping to give the team an unassailable lead.

The front pack’s dominance in set-pieces drew praise from captain Jonathan Lee, 26.

‘We controlled the scrums and line-outs by using our size as an advantage,’ he said.

‘That was crucial in most of the points we scored.’

Thornton added: ‘The forwards were outstanding, and gave us a chance to pressure the Malaysians. We need to keep this up against South Korea.’

Further tries from substitutes Jonathan Chen, Gabriel Lee and outside-centre Nicholas Groen added gloss to the scoreline.

More emphasis had been placed on grooming homegrown talent going into this competition – 16 Singaporeans feature in the 24-man squad with an average age of 25.

Eight Singaporeans started the match, with seven foreigners making up the first 15.