In a solid show of skill and aggression, Southeast Asian giants the Rhinos bulldozed their way to a 26-0 victory over Thailand-based Southerners to take the pride of place in the 12-team ANZ Royal Angkor International Rugby 10s tournament held at Northbridge Community ground on Saturday.
Profiteering from huge gaps and making good field positions count, the 2009 champions were all over their rivals, hitting the try line four times and coming away with three conversions. Mark Lancey led the onslaught with two tries while Jimmy Parafitt and Richard Rouse took one each.
The Rhinos took a firm hold of the contest with a 14-0 lead at the end of the first half of 12 minutes. With outside players getting a stream of good feeds, they attacked the line hard with plenty of pace in the second half to plunder 12 more points.
Though the result indicated one-way traffic, the Southerners fought a hard battle. There were a few cheeky runs by Southerners but none strong enough to beat the trap.
“It is a fantastic feeling to win again after two years. All day long we had been preparing for this final,” Rhinos captain Ron Rutland told the Post after the match.
“The build up was good and we could hit the ground running. It wasn’t easy. It was a lot tougher than the scoreline [suggests].”
In the lead up to the final, the Rhinos swept Saigon Geckos aside 31-5 while the Southerners blanked local side Sisowath Knights 19-0 in semifinals.
High drama marked classification battles. The Bowl final produced an extra time thriller with Singapore’s Bedok Kings nosing out local outfit Les Piliers d’Angkor 12-7 through a golden point.
The Plate final also went to the wire, with two Cambodian sides PSE Garudas and Stade Khmer locked 17-all at the end of regulation time. The deadlock was broken in the second minute of extra time when PSE squeezed home a try to snatch a 22-17 victory.
For Cambodian female referee Sophoan Peou, the Plate final was a special occasion as it was the highest standard men’s game she had supervised in her three-year stint. A former national women’s team member, Sophoan Peou has been the main referee for the Cambodian senior league and Super 4 Union League.
“My ambition is to referee a big final,” Sophoan Peou told the Post on Saturday.
While the match official was making a splash of her own, women’s rugby was also celebrating a milestone of sorts. The first ever women’s rugby 10s competition staged in the Kingdom, saw PSE Tigers down Lycee des Cartes 10-0 with Moeurn Sreya and Chhorvy Knar completing tries for the winners.
On Friday, Australia’s Boxhill Unquenchables proved too strong for a combined team of Indochine Barabarians and Tubbies On Tour in the Old Boys 15s tournament with a runaway 30-10 victory.
In a ringing endorsement of the 10s format as the most ideal for rugby development, Referee Manager Bruce Birchall of the United Kingdom feels Cambodia is set for a rapid growth in rugby.
“In the Asian market, it is hard to find big players and you don’t need that many in the 10s,” he told the Post.
A regular visitor to Southeast Asia, Birchall, who has officiated in more than 20 competitions in the last six years, had special praise for Cambodia’s stock.
“From what I have seen over the years, technique has improved a great deal among Cambodian players and their work ethic is excellent,” he added.