THE Philippines guns for the title in the Asian Rugby Championship Division 1 tournament as the Volcanoes slug it out with the dangerous Sri Lanka Tuskers on Saturday at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Volcanoes coach Stu Woodhouse and team captain Oliver Saunders said the squad should be at its best in the 6 p.m. title showdown because Sri Lanka usually gives them a tough time on the field.
“Sri Lanka will be a tough game. They have a strong forward pack and fast, skillful backs. We will need to be clinical with our exit strategy and at set piece,” said Saunders.
“Our clashes with Sri Lanka are always close and intense and this match will be no different.”
Last year, the Volcanoes and the Tuskers faced off in the old Asian 5 Nations tourney in Colombo, with the Filipinos stealing a 26-25 victory in the final minutes of the game.
“They are a big side that have an excellent lineout, launching their attacking raids of it and play an expansive and fast paced game. We will need to be at our defensive best to have any chance of winning,” said Woodhouse.
The top-ranked Volcanoes hacked out a come-from-behind 20-17 victory in extra time over No. 4 Singapore, while the No. 2 Tuskers clobbered third seed Kazakhstan, 35-14, to forge a title match.
“We will need to play better than our game against Singapore. Although I can’t fault the passion that the players showed on Wednesday they need to capitalize on the line-break more and convert the opportunities into points. We made over 4 four line-breaks and didn’t convert, due to a drop pass or impatience,” said Woodhouse.
“We also need to do more than just defend our line. We must apply more pressure on Sri Lanka’s attack to force turn overs. I am expecting our players to be more focused this game as the stakes are high,” he added.
The Filipinos also look to get extra energy from supporters at the 20,000-seater stadium like they did during their fightback against Singapore.
“Our fans played an important part in that win against Singapore. Without them, it would have been a lot harder to do what we did and I know how excited our boys get hearing them all cheering from the stands, it really lifts us in tough times. This game against Sri Lanka will even be tougher so it would be great to see them supporting us again,” said Saunders.
Kazakhstan and Singapore dispute third place honors at 4 p.m.