As heavy rain lashed the Old Stadium yesterday, Cambodia’s Koupreys (in white) packed down for a scrum against Brunei. Despite a promising start, Cambodia faded and lost 19-15. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
Cambodia faded away after a dazzling start, falling flat to a resurgent Brunei 19-15 in the opening game of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Division V rugby tournament at the Old Stadium yesterday.
The Koupreys stormed through a rain-ravaged first half with tries from Dan Wetherall and Morrison Mong, but the Bruneins wrest-led the game into their favour in a second-half surge that hauled them to a deserving victory.
Cambodian centre Alexis Chevalier kicked an early penalty and made a neat conversion, while missing one as well. But he hardly had a chance to do anything spectacular in the second half.
Bursting out of a well-taken scrum, Azahar Timbang bulldozed his way to the visitors’ first try minutes into the second half. That not only lifted spirits in the Brunei camp, but pushed Cambodia into a defensive hole.
When a reckless tackle on winger Muiz Pg Ismail cost Cambodia a penalty try, the visitors were firmly on their way to a full recovery.
Failing to control the ball or their discipline, Cambodia conceded more ground as the nippy Brunian winger exerted his growing influence on the game with a match-winning try.
At the other end, Cambodia could hardly get through Brunei’s defensive bravery.
“Brunei played their typical game. Waiting to see what they can do rather than doing something in the first half. But once Azahar showed the way, the rest opened out,” Brunei coach Julian Pestone told the Post after the match.
“I thought we could turn the match around even when we were down 15-0. It was basically one try at a time for us, and once we got the momentum we could make all those bold moves.
“We defended really well when Cambodia started to fight back,” the South African said. “We are looking forward to Thursday’s game against Laos.
“We stopped playing in the second half, fell at the tackles and moved the ball around too much. They played better than us,” Cambodia head coach Richard Flanagan said.
“We just didn’t tackle in the second half,” was the one-line reaction from Dan Wetherall, who helped a quick transition, then regained the ball to make a neat touchdown within the first five minutes.
The defeat was obviously a huge disappointment for the home side, who next take on Laos on Saturday when the three-match series winds up.
To contact the reporter on this story: H S Manjunath at firstname.lastname@example.org