Playing with an all-Filipino team for the first time in its history, the Philippine National Rugby team enjoyed a fine 34-12 win over hosts India in New Delhi to win the HSBC Asian Five Nations (A5N) Division 2 competition and gain promotion to Division 1 next year.
The victory continues an unchecked rise in A5N rugby for the Philippines, who have not lost a match for two years in Asia's elite rugby tournament.
In the play-off for third place Thailand beat China 56-3 to retain its Division 2 position and send China into next year's Division 3.
In the title match India, revved up by the 2000-strong crowd, made a terrific start with lock Surinder Singh crashing over for a try converted by full back Rohaan Sethna, but the Philippines quickly found a comfort zone guided by the steady boot of their fly half Oliver Saunders.
Saunders made India pay for a series of crucial penalties and a first half sin-binning by slotting through five penalties to account for 15 of the Philippines' 22 first half points. Brother Matt Saunders added the visitors' sole try of the opening 40 mintues.
After the break wing Ken Stern capped some flowing backline moves to land a brace of tries and effectively put the match out of reach.
India never stopped in their efforts and were rewarded with a
second try to the lock Singh, but the Philippines were able to hold
on comfortably for the win, which means that they replace Chinese
Taipei in next year's Division I where they will compete
against former Top 5 teams Korea, Singapore and improving Malaysia.
"I'm very proud to have won Division 2, we came in with the idea of rebuilding, had seven debutants on the tour and to come away with a win, it's an incredible feeling," said Volcanoes coach Expo Mejia.
"We now have to build on the platform we have and the exciting brand of footy we are trying to play. We aren't expecting too much in Division 1 but we are thrilled to be there. The Division 1 teams have a lot of experience and they will be tough. They will also all be eager to get back to the Top 5, but we'll just enjoy the challenge."
Team manager Matt Cullen added: "Division 1 will be a huge challenge but we considered Division 2 a huge challenge.
We brought in a professional coach and assembled a young, 100% Filipino team and I think in 12 months we will be able to compete against the likes of Singapore and Malaysia.
"I am not saying we will win but we will be capable of playing in that division - and are looking forward to it."
Thailand too strong for China
China's difficulties in the A5N continued against the
impressive Thai side. Warongkorn Khomkoet had another stylish
performance at full back for Thailand, scoring 21 points on the day
and 44 in the tournament, and wing Pinchit Yingcharoen scooped a
hat-trick of tries.
Following on from a 94-0 loss to India in the opening semi final, China are relegated to next year's Division 3, the composition of which will be decided this week in the HSBC A5N Division 3 tournament in Jakarta, Indonesia featuring Pakistan, Guam, Iran and Indonesia on June 9-12.
Jordan to face Uzbekistan in Division 4 final
Jordan edged Mongolia 29-21 in the first semi final of the HSBC A5N Division 4 to earn a place in the final on Saturday 12 June against Uzbekistan.
Fly half Jammal Masri scored 19 of Jordan's 29 points.
Kyrgyzstan were unable to travel so Uzbekistan received a bye to the final.
For more information on the HSBC Asian 5 Nations visitwww.asian5nations.com.