The 10th February 2018 round of SRU National League 2017/18 is truly significant as it signalled the conclusion of the 17/18 Women’s Premiership. The grand finale to this exciting season was played out in a nerve-wrecking edge of the seat thriller between the top 2 teams of the league, Bedok King Skyllas Wolves (Wolves) and Blacks Women’s RFC (Blacks Women’s). Wolves, having beaten Blacks Women’s twice in the league earlier in season, would be everyone’s pre-match favourites. Blacks Women’s, however, were the champions consecutively the past few years though, and with such pedigree, they should not be written off even though they may have disappointed in the matches against Wolves previously.
Both teams warmed up intensely an hour before the game, and as the teams jogged onto the field together for kick off, it was absolutely clear that every player was focused and had their eyes on the prize. Right from the get go, sustained pressure was exerted by the impressive Blacks Women’s who were right in the zone. Less than 10 minutes in, after some slick interplay between the Blacks Women’s forwards and backs, swinging the ball from one end of the pitch to the other as they seek an opening against Wolves, flanker Chan Jia Yu crossed the white line with a penetrating run off a pass from a ruck. 5-0 to Black Women’s, with the try being unconverted. Due to the dominance exerted by Blacks Women’s in the early exchanges, Wolves were forced to concede not only a number of penalties but also several turnovers at contact points.
Soon after, Blacks Women’s scored again. This time the try was scored in the corner after some quick hands from the Blacks Women’s backline after a good steal from a ruck in the middle of Wolves’ 22 metres. Misery was compounded on Wolves as their winger Tse Min Yan was sent to the sin bin after being adjudged to have high tackled her Blacks Women’s counterpart as she dove to score the try. Once again, the try was not converted as the score stood 10-0 to Blacks Women’s.
To make matters worse for Wolves, flanker Ang Yue Li sustained a leg injury after going into contact and could not continue with the match. She was substituted by Ong Pei Yi. With everything going against them so far, it would have been reasonable to expect Wolves to succumb to such pressure and caved in. However, they proved their mettle as tournament favourites by rallying together and soldiering on, showing resilience and fine spirit as they turned the tide of the game and hauled themselves back into the game with a converted try. After good work in the middle by Wolves, in-centre Angelina Liu broke through Blacks Women’s defensive line to score a try under the post. The score now stood 10-7. Wolves grew into the game as the match edged past the midway point of the first half. Around the half hour mark, after some quick passing from the Wolves ladies, an unconverted try was scored in the corner. For the first time in the game, Wolves were leading 12-10. Both teams traded punches afterwards but no further points were scored as a frantic and intense first half was brought to its end with Wolves leading despite the early blows they sustained.
The second half started much the same as the first as Blacks Women’s grabbed the upper hand again in the early proceedings. They wrestled back the lead soon after with a moment of déjà vu as blonde winger Jayne Chan scored a try in the corner after some swift attacking play by Blacks Women’s. To compile the coincidences, this time Kings scrum half, Esther Phua, was harshly adjudged to have high tackled Jayne Chan in a last-ditch effort to prevent the try, and was sin binned for it. The try was unconverted but Blacks Women’s took a narrow 15-12 lead. At this point of the match, Blacks Women’s were again turning the heat on Wolves and Wolves proceeded to concede a fair few penalties at ruck situation. After several phases of attacking play by Blacks Women’s, a slick passing move ended with a try again for blonde flyer Jayne Chan. Blacks Women’s took the lead 20-12 with a quarter of the game left to be played.
It was at this point in time when majority of the substitutions were made for both teams. As though following a script, Wolves fought back to grab the initiatives, similar to the first half, and mounted waves of attacks and hard running at the Blacks Women’s defence. They came agonisingly close to narrowing the deficit as one such foray resulted in a held up try. Undeterred, Wolves continued with their barrage on Blacks Women’s. A threatening attack that spanned close to 17 phases only ended due to a knock on by one of the Wolves’ ladies. Blacks Women’s were putting in a superhuman showing in defence. However, Wolves also showed their determination and mental resilience by not giving up and continuing with the fight. From the resulting scrum, Wolves pressured hard and fast on Blacks Women’s which led to a penalty for them. Wolves seized this opportunity and took the penalty quickly. This took the Black Women’s players by surprise as Wolves went over for an unconverted try. It was now 20-17 and the game has reached its most intense and nerve-wrecking period as the game edges closer to the fulltime whistle.
Right from the restart, Blacks Women’s regathered themselves and their efforts as they immediately placed Wolves under pressure. Thereafter, some quick hands from the Blacks Women’s backline saw try machine Jayne Chua go over the whitewash once again, this time on the opposite wing. This try all but sealed the win for Blacks Women’s at 25-17. The game then petered out in unassuming fashion as a series of substitutions were made again, as Blacks Women’s saw out the triumph. Finally, the many supporters that surrounded the field in their pockets could at last catch their breaths after such a breath-taking, nerve-wrecking and entertaining match has ended.
Kudos to both teams for playing their hearts out and displaying the sort of skill and attitude that had all of us taking our hats off to them. Everybody played like a winner and nobody deserved to lose. Special mention to Jayne Chua as well, there were many outstanding players in this final, but Jayne Chua undoubtedly shone the brightest as she stole the show with her exhilarating speed as well as her well taken tries.
The Men’s Premiership match afterwards saw the rematch of the game played a fortnight ago, as last year’s runners up Wanderers RFC (Wanderers) took on Bedok Kings 1st XV (Kings) again in such a short period of time. Wanderers came into this Premiership match aiming to improve on their previous week showing against SCC, in which they lost 17-11, as well as to pile the misery on Kings, who were still licking their wounds from a 68-12 thrashing by Bucks the week before.
Unlike the previous meeting between the two, the first half an hour of the match went by rather uneventfully. Wanderers took a 9-0 lead with 3 successfully penalties through their winger Kieran Sasiadek. The only try of the half came towards the end as Kings went over for a try from a scrum through their No. 8 after periods of sustained pressure. The first half soon ended 9-5 to Wanderers. 10 minutes into the second half, Kings pulled themselves within a point against Wanderers with a penalty by Terrence Chee. However, not long after, an unintentional but reckless challenge in the air by one of the Kings backs resulted in a sin binning for him. He was lucky not to see red for his challenge.
From the penalty, some quick hands from side to side resulted in Matt Humphreys going over for a converted try. Wanderers opened the gap to 8 points with a 16-8 lead. A period after, Wanderers conceded a kickable penalty to Kings for a high tackle. The penalty was duly converted, the score stood at 16-11. As the sin bin ended, a host of changes were made by Kings. Grabbing the initiative with the full compliment of the team, Kings scored through Esekiel Soh off a swift pass from scrum half Azmi Sliman after some quick phase plays. The score stood tied at 16-16.
However, it went downhill from there for Kings as Wanderers scored 17 unanswered points thereafter, partly contributed by one very brilliant piece of individual play by replacement scrum half Charlie Teng as he spotted no one home behind the Kings’ backline and cleverly exploited it with a well-executed chip and chase. Shortly before that wonderful play, the flash point of the game came when Lorenz Klingbeil was sin binned for stomping and in the ensuing melee, Kings’ inside centre and kicker Terrence Chee was also sin binned for retaliating. Towards the end of the game, Kings summoned up one last monumental effort to score a consolation try. They probed and ploughed but alas all they could achieve was a held up try. In the end, the match finished with Wanderers victorious 33-16.
Moving on to the other Premiership match of the day that kicked off later at 5pm, reigning champions Bucks 1st XV took on powerhouses SCC at their home turf and slogged out a hard fought 17-7 victory at the Padang. In the Championship, Bucks 2nd XV eked out a surprise high scoring narrow win against SCC Tankards 42-34, while Gaulois also surprisingly sprang a victory against current league leaders Wanderers RFC Gents with a 29-19 win. Elsewhere, Oldham Blue won Blacks RFC 46-14, Bedok Kings RFC 2nd XV won Saints RFC 38-14 and SCC Lions walked over Oldham Gold 20-0.
Once again, we would like to congratulate Blacks Women’s for winning the 2017/18 Women’s Premiership, they fought really hard for the victory and deserve every bit of plaudits that come their way. Also, as next weekend is the Lunar New Year, we will be taking a break from rugby so that everyone can join in with the joyous celebrations and enjoy all the snacks and goodies. Here’s wishing all our friends celebrating Lunar New Year a very Happy and Bountiful Chinese New Year! See you in two weeks’ time as the Men’s leagues reach their climax!