Asia Rugby Championship Division I title win accompanied by big rankings rise for the Philippines

Philippine Volcanoes (© Asia Rugby)

Philippine Volcanoes (© Asia Rugby)

After successfully defending their Asia Rugby Championship Division I title following a 29-21 win in a thrilling final against Singapore, the Philippines have jumped up 11 places in the World Rugby Rankings to an all-time high of 42nd – seven places higher than their previous best.

Taking into account their 39-22 semi-final win over Sri Lanka, the Volcanoes picked up 2.61 rating points over the five days of competition. Singapore remain in 57th place as the reward on offer for their 18-13 semi-final win against Chinese Taipei marginally offset the defeat to the Philippines with regard to the rankings.

The Philippines started brightly and after some good work in the backs, both of their wingers Justin Coveney and Ellis Rudder gave them an early 12-0 lead. But Jonathan Wong, who showed incredible pace to score a length of the field try after a quick tap and go inside their own 22, reduced the deficit before a third Philippines try from full-back Patrice Olivier took the score to 19-7.

The Philippines’ penalty count grew and with Ishraf Marah in fine form, his four converted penalties helped Singapore reduce the deficit once more to 19-16 midway through the second half.

However, the Philippines backs once again capitalised on the space created by their forwards with Ned Stephenson calming his side’s nerves before Erik Erikson added their fifth try. There was still time for Wong to add his second but it was too little for Singapore who fell just short in the match.

“I am so proud of the boys, this is such a huge win,” said Philippines’ fly-half and captain Danny Matthews. “It wasn’t the prettiest game of footy but we showed a lot of heart to get the win. All credit Singapore, they were excellent, I can’t say enough how good they were.

“Having two back-to-back games like this in quick succession was a big test and we showed immense determination to get over the line.”

Sri Lanka bounced back from their semi-final defeat to the eventual champions with an impressive 72-17 win over hosts Chinese Taipei. Despite claiming third place, the Tuskers drop a couple of spots in the rankings to 45th with a reduced rating of 46.70 points.

The only other match to affect the rankings was Finland’s 34-22 win against Norway in the concluding match of the Rugby Europe Conference 2 North campaign.

Finland were virtually assured of the runners-up spot behind champions Latvia in the Conference 2 North table when they raced into a 22-0 half-time lead. Norway fought back gamely after the break but a quick-fire brace from openside Matti Keranen put the result beyond any doubt.

Finland move above Uzbekistan and into 91st position in the rankings as a result of their third win of the campaign, while Norway drop to 95th with Pakistan the team to benefit.

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