TAKING advantage of their superior speed in the back line, the PSE Garudas overwhelmed an outmanned Sisowath Knights side 28-0 Sunday at Northbridge School, in the opening match of the 2009-10 Cambodian Rugby Premiership.
The Garudas, who are vying for their fifth consecutive Premiership title, used their speed, superior ball-handling, and kicking to wear down their slower opponents.
The Knights played the match without the services of four key starting players – halfback Luke Wilkie, fly half Conrad Warren, centre Dan Parkes, and second row Dan Wetherall – and their absence proved decisive on the day.
Backs Wilkie, Warren and Parkes were out with injuries, while forward Wetherall had business commitments which prevented him from joining the club Sunday.
Sisowath coach Brian Thomas said the absence of the four players proved too much for his team to overcome.
“Not having these guys here today was just devastating to us,” said Thomas. “We played well enough in the set pieces – our scrummaging and lineout play was good, but the [Garudas] were just quicker to the breakdowns, and we couldn’t match them in the loose play.”
The Garudas opened the scoring in the 13th minute, when captain Pich Ratana booted a penalty goal from 15 metres out to put his side up by three points.
Most of the first half was played in the Sisowath end of the field, as the Garudas moved repeatedly toward the goal line, only to be rebuffed by a stoic defence.
Finally, the Garudas got untracked in the 33rd minute, as fullback Chan Samedi took a pass off a ruck at the 25-metre line, found an opening, and raced in untouched for the try, making it 8-0. Pich Ratana’s conversion kick was unsuccessful, and the score remained at halftime.
The Garudas then sealed victory in the second half with tries by centres Chamroeun Vandei and Lach Sopheara in the 49th and 55th minutes, fullback Nhep Raha in the 65th minute, and flanker Ut Vuthy in the 75th minute.
Garuda captain Ratana was pleased by his team’s performance. “Overall, we passed well and ran well in the backs,” said the Garuda skipper. “I’m very happy about that. But our scrum technique was not always so good, as we were getting pushed back a lot, and our line out play was just so-so. We need to improve on that or it will hurt us in future matches.”
Thomas felt that given all the missing players, his team did as well as could be expected. “We had a few guys who were playing out of position, and others who were too young and inexperienced to make much of an impact,” remarked Thomas. “Hopefully we can get our injured players back in time, so we can give them a better match next time around.”
Premiership action continues 4pm next Saturday at Siem Reap Provincial Stadium, when Stade Khmer take on Siem Reap for their opening fixture of the Premiership season.