THE Philippine rugby team kept its growing stature as one of the continent’s best following a 24-8 win over United Arab Emirates at the close of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Top Five competition Saturday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Finally playing consistent ball throughout, the Volcanoes barged into the win column after three unsuccessful tries against powerhouse Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea to extend their stay in the top flight of the tournament featuring the best sides among 28 Asian rugby nations.
UAE, which went winless in four games, is now relegated to Division 1.
Japan, which secured the top spot after going unbeaten in its four matches, has clinched the lone automatic berth to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
South Korea defeated Hong Kong, 43-22, earlier in the winner’s turf to grab the second spot and the ticket to a knockout tournament among the runners-up in each other continent for the 20th and final slot in the World Cup.
The Volcanoes were holding on to a close 12-8 lead until the 58th minute when Graeme Hagan returned to the field to score a vital try and put the home team further ahead, 19-8 after Alexander Aronson’s conversion.
Power outage disrupted the game in the last five minutes, but when power came back and play resumed 10 minutes later, the Volcanoes closed out the scoring for good with a try in the 79th minute to reserve centre Justin Coveney.
Duncan Hall, the UAE coach, was obviously frustrated following the loss.
“We’re disappointed to be relegated for the first time since 2009 but fair play to the Philippines they did well. We suffered in the humid conditions as we are used to a dry heat in Dubai,” he said.
“The ball became hard for us to manage and we turned it over 14 times in the first half through handling errors. We gave them too much possession at the end of the day.”
The home team jumped out to a 5-0 lead after flanker Christopher Hitch scored the opening try in the 10th minute, crashing over from a scrum at the five-metre line.
Moments later, winger Gareth Holgate crossed over for the Volcanoes’ second try of the first half, which flyhalf Alexander Aronson successfully converted to make it 12-0.
The Volcanoes settled for a 12-5 edge after the first half.