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Knights ride to victory

Reigning champions Sisowath Knights continued their stranglehold of the Cambodia Federation of Rugby’s 2012-13 league season by beating PSE Garudas 34-26 in their match at Old Stadium on Saturday.

The Knights now occupy top spot in the standings, having won their opening game against Stade Khmer, who went down 17-9 in Saturday’s other fixture to newly formed Ko Chul Rugby Club.  

The Garudas, a side backed by French NGO Pour en Sourire d’Enfants, feature the youngest squad in the four-team league with no member older than 19 years old. Due to a significant size advantage held by the Knights, Garudas coach Xavier Arrillaga requested that there be no contested scrums during their games this year.

“The risk of injuries is just too high,” Arrillaga told the Post.

Despite their diminutive build, the Garudas were in no mood to be dictated to. After two early tries for the Knights, PSE hit back with two of their own just before the break, via some great tackling and quick acceleration, to hold a slender advantage going into half-time.

In the highly combative game, numerous small skirmishes broke out with emotions running high. A PSE player saw red and received a card of the same colour.

Knights captain Dan Wetherall remained diplomatic about the incident. “My number one rule in rugby is: what happens on the field, stays on the field. So neither me nor any of my team-mates have any hard feelings against Garudas or any of their players,” he said.

The Knights ran over three more tries in the second session and appeared to be cruising to victory. The youthful Garudas, however, scored off another lengthy dash and a dramatic chip-and-run move to trim the deficit to only eight points.

Although PSE’s Pouch Pisal led the forward pack wonderfully, time was just not on their side to reclaim the lead.

“This, 34-26, was a very good result for my young team. They showed a lot of spirit. The Knights had to earn every point today,” coach Arrillaga said.

Wetherhall admitted his side were surprised by the tackling and fight the Garudas put up. “But I am also very proud of my team for not giving up one minute during the game,” he said.

In the second game of the day, Stade Khmer had obviously learned from their mistakes in the 67-0 capitulation against the Knights on matchday one and played a lot better.

Ko Chul were hit by three penalty kicks within the first 20 minutes but saw their opponents become visibly tired from the start of the second half.

It seemed inevitable that Ko Chul would score points, not only because of the great rugby Vannak Vireak played but also through the experience of flankers Ul Vuthy, Vong Vannak and Yun Sopha.

Cambodia Federation of Rugby development officer and Ko Chul player Jean-Baptiste Suberbie said: “Ko Chul Rugby Club is the first 100 per cent independent Khmer rugby club. It is run by Cambodians only – the president, the treasurer and the captain. It is important for us that we support rugby run by Khmers for Khmers. We are proud that we could win our first match.”

Saturday morning saw the first games of the junior championship. PSE, ASPECA Orphanage and Lycee Francais Rene Descartes had U11 and U13 sides. PSE won both their U11 ties, while Lycee Descartes were undefeated in the U13s.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Derbuc at chris.derbuc@phnompenhpost.com

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