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Perfect season for Garudas

Rugby side PSE Garudas come back strongly to fend off rivals Stade Khmer 31-22 in championship match Sunday to maintain perfect record this season

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN

Players from Stade Khmer (blue and pink) and PSE Garudas (red) attempt to gain possesion from a lineout during the Cambodian Rugby Premiership championship match Sunday at Old Stadium.

AFTER a sluggish first half, the PSE Garudas used their superior speed and agility in the second half to outlast a determined Stade Khmer side 31-22 to win the championship match of the Cambodian Rugby Premiership Sunday at Phnom Penh's Old Stadium.

With the victory, the Garudas completed a perfect season winning all seven of their games, while Stade Khmer finished second with 4 wins and 3 losses.

"We were very lucky to win," said an exhausted Garuda captain Pich Ratana. "Stade Khmer played very well, and we had to be at our best in the second half to win."

Stade Khmer dominated play in the first 30 minutes using the forwards to keep the ball in close and maintain possession. Centre Mathias Peralta opened the scoring in the 10th minute as he took a ball off a ruck and burst in for a try from 10 metres out. Dul Khemrin's successful conversion put Stade Khmer 7-0 in front.

Dul Khemrin further extended the advantage for his side in the 25th minute with a penalty kick from 30 metres out.

The Garudas, which had seen their vaunted running attack stymied by some fierce Stade Khmer defensive play, finally got going late in the first half as centre Vannak Vireak took a pass off a ruck, found a gap in midfield and raced in untouched for the try from 50 metres out. Vannak Vireak's successful conversion brought the sides to within three points.

However, Stade Khmer quickly answered back just three minutes later as they regained possession and quickly drove down to the Garuda 5-metre line. Flanker Romain Lalouette picked up a loose ball near a ruck and ran in for the try with Dul Khemrin's successful conversion kick making the scores 17-7 at the halftime whistle.

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN

Stade Khmer’s Dul Khemrin (right) is tackled by PSE Garudas’ Lim Pun Pov.

The Garudas came back fervently in the second half as their fleeting backs began to find gaps in the Stade Khmer defence. Eight minutes into the restart, a long kick by Garuda centre Lach Sopheara at the Garuda 25-metre line sailed over the heads of the Stade Khmer defenders caught off guard. The ball ultimately fell into the hands of winger Sam Chanphearom who tumbled over the line to score the try. Pich Ratana's successful conversion narrowed the Stade Khmer advantage to three.

The Garudas' open-field running then slowly began to wear down Stade Khmer. Tries from Nuon Leng in the 52nd minute and Nheb Rotha in the 66th minute sealed the deal. Pich Ratana made good on both conversions to give the Garudas a 31-17 lead.

Stade Khmer made the score respectable in the final minute as 48-year-old Belgian prop, Jean-Luc Floch, pushed his way in for a try on a pick-and-go from 3 metres out.

After the match, Stade Khmer flyhalf Francois Bleriot said his team had maintained a good game plan, but costly mistakes in the second half had proved their undoing.

"We played very well in the first half, but we had a few penalties and dropped balls that gave them plenty of opportunities. You can't give these guys [the Garudas] chances like this."

PSE Garudas have won all the past four seasons of the Rugby Premiership.

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