Undefeated clubs continued their winning streaks on Saturday as the Cambodian Federation of Rugby hosted another double-header of league matches at Old Stadium.
Newly formed Ko Chul Rugby Club defeated PSE Garudas 36-31 while reigning champions Sisowath Knights crushed Stade Khmer 69-7.
The young Garudas squad took the game to Ko Chul – who’s members are former PSE students and players – in the early stages, scoring two tries including one from fullback Norn Vannara, a player tipped by CFR Development Officer Jean-Baptiste Suberbie as one of the most promising of the home-grown talent.
The Garudas set out to avoid getting drawn into a lot of close-quarter skirmishes in the middle of the field by playing the ball out to their speedier flanks, but Ko Chul countered this well with their own strategy of physically dominating the ruck and feeding their forwards to gain ground through rolling mauls, answering back with two tries from Ut Vuthy.
Garudas seized back the momentum with another try from Norn Vannara to give them a three-point lead. From the resulting kick-off, Garudas coach Xavier Arrillaga ordered a quick boot to the wing in an attempt to capitalise on a slumbering Ko Chul defence.
Unfortunately, the move backfired spectacularly with a Ko Chul player grabbing the ball and running all the way to the other end to score what would prove to be the match-winning try.
“We lost because of a detail,” said coach Arrillaga. “I thought with that quick kick we could get a comfortable 10-point lead and take this win. I took a chance and it didn’t work out. My players played their heart out.”
In Saturday’s late fixture, the Sisowath Knights registered yet another comprehensive victory over Stade Khmer in their second meeting this season.
Three tries from Dan Wetherall, two by Rowdie Loughlin, one from Neil Kennedy and five more across the team highlighted an obvious gulf in class between the sides. Even without contested scrums, where the Knights would have held an advantage, they played out their physicality and let the forwards work for the team.
The only ray of hope for the Stade Khmer came in the form of Em Rattana, who scored a magnificent try followed by a great conversion. However, the Cambodian was given his marching orders just moments later for a poor challenge on Wetherall.
“This was clearly dangerous play. The player from the Knights was pulled up in the air during a tackle when Em Rattana tackled him underneath,” head referee Peter McCombe told the Post.
“There is a great danger of the Knights player flipping over. For this I had to get him [Rattana] off the field.”
Em Rattana took his punishment with good grace. “I tried to push the opponent back. I didn’t realise it was dangerous play, but the referee saw it differently and gave me my second yellow card of the day,” he said.
Knights captain Luke Wilkie noted that the problem stemmed from the fact that almost all Cambodian players are a lot smaller then Westerners playing on the field. “When Rattana tackled Dan, he probably didn’t notice tackling him in his legs while he is picked up. I understand Stade Khmer’s frustration, but this could have ended in a serious injury and therefore it was necessary by the referee to punish it,” he said.
The Knights lead the CFR League standings with a 3-0 record, followed by first-time participants Ko Chul who have both of their opening games. PSE Gaurdas and Stade Khmer are both still without a point from the campaign so far. The next gameday will be on January 19.