The Philippine National Development Team traveled to Kota Kinabalu to play their first ever International Rugby 15s match against the Sabah Regional Representative team. This was always going to be a close, hard game and it became very obvious on arrival at the Kota Kinabalu Hostel,where both teams were staying, that Sabah were out to win the game on their home soil. A majority of the Sabah Team have already played International Matches for the Malaysian Mens' team and they entered the game with both a size and experience advantage over the Philippine Team which had 12 players playing their first ever International game.
The game certainly had all the intensity that you would expect of an International Rugby Match and both teams held nothing back as they smashed into the first 20 minutes with some fierce tackles being made from both sides. The Philippines were led by some seasoned campaigners with Noel Flowers Jon Morales, Chris Hettel, Kit Guerra, John Odulio, David Carman and Daniel Melrose having all played for a Filipino Team in past games. These players certainly led the less experienced newcomers with passion and skill.
After 18 minutes, the Philippines were able to pin the Sabah Team in their own 22 meter zone. With John Odulio having a strong game in the second row and winning all his lineouts, the ball went wide to David Carman and he decided to take his opponent on the outside, David immediately outclassed his opposition and ran in to score the opening try of the game, this was converted by the Philippine Team Captain, Jon Morales to take the lead 7 - 0.
It wasn't long before the Sabah Team fought back and the Philippines Fullback, Noel "Daisy" Flowers, pulled off two try saving tackles to stop the Sabah boys from crossing the line in the second 20 minute period. Throughout this period, Sabah had the field advantage and the Philippines made some crucial errors in their quarter to put themselves under pressure, this directly led to Sabah swooping on a dropped pass and they scored just before halftime to take the score to 7 - 5.
The Sabah team came out firing in the third period and quickly scored to take a 12 - 7 lead and they started to use their size advantage in the forwards to control possession. Unfortunately for the Philippines, Kit Guerra had to leave the field with an ankle injury and he was replaced by Warren Carman who was playing his first game for the Philippines with his older brother David. At this point, the Philippines' two 17 year old forwards on the field, Daniel Melrose and Warren Carman, proved their worth as they showed a huge amount of courage and heart; playing in a heated contest with much bigger and more experienced men all around them.
Based on their stellar debut in Guangzhou last year, the Philippine National Women's 7s team has been invited to compete in the Cable & Wireless Worldwide Hong Kong Women's Rugby 7s on March 24 & 25, 2011. The PRFU has accepted the invitation and has chosen the following players to travel and compete in Hong Kong next month:
Head Coach - Matthew Cullen
Asst. Coach - Noel Flowers
Team Manager - Celia Gittus
IRB L2 Referee - Harry Wang