ASIAN 5 NATIONS
Volcanoes roar, gain crack at promotion
WITH little fanfare, the Philippine Volcanoes are slowly but surely getting the job done.
The Volcanoes moved within a victory of achieving what seemed like the unthinkable a few years ago—entering the premier division of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Championships.
Drawing superb performances from three sets of brothers in their lineup, the Volcanoes ripped Chinese Taipei, 35-12, Wednesday night, setting the stage for a promotion showdown with top seed Sri Lanka at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Duplicating the feat of his brother Joe in the victory against Singapore, winger Luke Matthews scored on both of his first touches of the ball to lead the Volcanoes to a second straight comprehensive victory in the four-nation Division 1 tournament.
Two other brothers played key roles with captain Michael Letts and younger sibling Jake, as well as Oliver and Matthew Saunders starting in the side that shut out the Taiwanese in the first half.
“That was a tough match and it was just what we needed,” said Volcanoes coach Expo Mejia. “They (Chinese-Taipei) really stretched us and we will be better for it. They were desperate and they really picked it up and tested our defensive structures, which was great for us.”
Sri Lanka, which was relegated from the premiere division last year, broke away in the second half for a 35-10 victory over Singapore in the first game.
Leading the winners are captain Yoshitha Rajapaksa and hooker Namal Rajapaksa, sons of Sir Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Like the Volcanoes, Sri Lanka also has two wins. The two sides meet Saturday with the winner joining the premiere division next year—which could be the biggest achievement for the Philippines, a team barely vying in Division III only three years ago.
“It will be a very tough match against Sri Lanka on Saturday but it is fitting that it will be the final,” said Mejia. “It comes down to who recovers best and who steps up most.”
Luke Matthews refused to take all the credit for the victory.
“It felt amazing to score twice today, but we have to hand it to our forwards whose defense was outstanding and set a great platform for the backline,” he said. Cedelf P. Tupas
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