Vietnam Swans asserted their class in no mean terms as they stayed unbeaten in the four-nation competition to lift the Indochina Cup, the symbol of regional supremacy in Australian Rules Football.
The one-day event which wrapped up at the Navy Fields on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Saturday, saw the Swans in rousing form.
In their opening game, they drubbed Laos Elephants 64 to 6 and followed it up with a hard gained 34-26 win over their arch rivals Cambodian Eagles. In the final round robin game, the Swans beat Thailand Tigers 29-13.
The hosts finished second after scoring a 28 to 15 win over Thailand Tigers and 38 to 8 win over Laos Elephants. Thailand Tigers’ 53 to 6 victory over the Elephants gave them a third place finish.
The Eagles were looking to go one better than the previous year and send off their outgoing captain Simon Whitney in style.
The day kicked off with the Eagles taking on Thailand in what was always going to be a hard fought encounter. It lived up to expectations as the two teams went goal for goal in a tight struggle that saw both squads tested all over the ground.
Inaccurate kicking by the Eagles let them down but they managed to finish with the last few goals and run out winners by 13 points.
Next up saw Vietnam take on a Laos team which brought over a record 11 Laos nationals in their squad.
Vietnam asserted their dominance from the outset and consistently scored throughout the match to finish 10 goals in front.
Laos backed up in consecutive games to take on Thailand in Game 3 and it was much a repeat of the previous game as Thailand dominated throughout the match to win 53-6.
Game 4 was the clash of the heavyweights, as Cambodia went up against a revamped Vietnam side.
The Eagles started well, kicking the opening goal and pumping the ball into their forward line consistently, however wayward kicking let them down again and they paid for it as Vietnam kicked the next three goals to lead at half time 20-10. The half time message from the Eagles was to go out, win the contested ball and make the opportunities count, but this fell on deaf ears as Vietnam played smart football and kicked the first two goals of the second half.
With 10 minutes to go, the Eagles finally found some form as they had the majority of the play and continually moved the ball forward, piling pressure on a very resilient Swans defence.
In the end, the Eagles let themselves down with inaccurate kicking as they were beaten by the clock and Vietnam got over the line.
The Eagles final game of the day was against the Elephants squad. Each team put all their local players on the field (four for the Eagles and 11 for Laos) in what was a scrappy but entertaining match.
Looking to notch up their first win of the day, the Elephants had a real crack and unearthed some superstars of the future as the Laos nationals showed courage and skill to keep up with a tiring Eagles team.
Unfortunately for Laos, they couldn’t compete with the experience of the home side, who went on to win 38-8. The highlight of the game came from local Cambodian player Pros, who took a fantastic mark and went back to convert from 30 metres out.
The final game saw Thailand take on Vietnam, with the winner taking home the Cup trophy. Vietnam went in front with the first goal and managed to keep the lead for the rest of the match despite a gallant effort from the Thai boys. In the end Vietnam went on to be deserved winners 29-13.
Vietnam took trophy and the glory as their consistent quality football proved too good for the opposition. The Eagles had to make do with being runners-up for the second year running. Overall it was a fantastic day of football, all played in good spirit and further built on the great tradition that is the Indochina Cup.
David Murphy was solid in the forward line for the Eagles, kicking six goals for the day. Phil Hammer was the Eagles best player as he fought hard in the middle all day long, while Stephen Higgins provided excellent ruck work which helped the Eagles dominate in the middle for most of the day.