Cambodia’s national rugby team, the Koupreys, return home from Thailand after an enriching weekend of action at HSBC Asian Rugby Sevens Series event.
It was the Kingdom’s first appearance at a major international sevens competition and despite a record of one win, four losses and a draw against regional opponents, the squad could still take heart in some rousing performances, according to team coach Dan Wetherall.
“The tournament was as much about education and experience as it was about results – the Koupreys experienced both,” Wetherall told the Post yesterday. With NagaWorld enrolled as team sponsors and sporting a brand new kit, the Koupreys were eager to display some Cambodian pride at the two-day competition held at the IPE Chonburi Main Stadium in Bang Saen.
Saturday’s opener against Laos saw the Koupreys succumb to two late tries to lose 26-14. India then exerted their physical advantage to grab a 29-5 victory over Cambodia.
The third match of the day was “the one that got away” from the Koupreys, with Uzbekistan capitalising on the referee’s decision to send off a Cambodian player with an equalising last-play score to tie things up at 17-17.
Sunday’s early start was an eye-opener in more ways than one for the Koupreys, who were startled by Singapore 38-7. India then belied the closeness of the sides by producing yet more second half tries and win 26-5.
The concluding fixture saw Cambodia drawn against Uzbekistan in the 15th/16th play-off. The Kingdom’s men stepped up admirably to face their larger opponents, dominating the match from the outset to finish the tournament on a positive note with a 40-0 blowout.
“It was a wonderful experience for this Koupreys squad, which has a balanced mix of experienced rugby players with new blood coming through,” said Wetherall, who is also the Cambodian Federation of Rugby Development Officer.
“They were able to take in some wonderful rugby, particularly the final where Japan overcame Hong Kong in extra time. All the players put in over the weekend, with captain Vannak Vireak leading from the front throughout the tournament and young gun Norn Vannara scoring five tries over two days and proving he has a big future in the sport.
“Once more thanks again to NagaWorld. Without their support these players would not be able to have such a wonderful experience.”
Japanese sevens sensation Lomano Lemeki, who was named player of the tournament, proved decisive yet again by scoring the golden try in sudden death of the Cup final to secure a 17-12 win.
Sri Lanka finished third after beating South Korea 29-7 in the play-off, while hosts Thailand fell to the Philippines 22-14 in the Plate final.
Kazakhstan edged Malaysia 26-21 to take seventh place, and China beat their fierce rivals Taiwan 21-14 in the Bowl final.
Singapore routed Laos 26-5 for 11th place and India demolished UAE 31-10 in the Shield final.
The Thailand event was the second stop of the series after last month’s Malaysian leg in Kuala Lumpur, and will head to Mumbai next month and Singapore in November.