Was in Ipoh on Friday, 6th June and took the opportunity to stay back on Saturday to watch the Perak State Final of the Premier Schools U-20 Rugby tournament between King Edward VII School, Taiping and Sekolah Tunku Abdul Rahman (STAR), Ipoh. The winner qualified for the National Finals in Sabah of which KEVII School is the reigning champion.
It was good to see our boys this year are well built. They can match the Starians in size but somehow the KE boys had a leaner and hungrier look about them.
The game started with fast paced exchanges and both teams appeared to have good grasp of rugby basics. There were three Malaysian players in the KEVII backline and this was evident in the attacking moves; they are fast and handle the ball well! The KEVII first five eight was also the captain and he played a captain's game. His commanding presence both in attack and defence probably made the difference between the two teams.
KEVII led 5-0 at half time through a well taken try and the narrow lead was due to our kicker not having his kicking boots on. He missed the conversion and then a penalty virtually in front of the post.
The STAR side was a good well balanced side and was unlucky to have KEVII in the same state. I am certain both teams would be able to do Perak proud against any schools U-20 side in the country. They had a very good (and heavier) forward pack and had us pegged in our own half for long periods of the second half. Nevertheless, our forwards, while not as tight were able to match them in the rucks and mauls. There were many occasions when the were within 5 yards of our tryline but just could not barge through. Both sides showed great determination.
The score stood at 8-0 before STAR managed to cross our line for a converted try after sustained pressure. We managed another try at the far post after that to make the score 13-7. It was nail biting stuff after that and the obviously biased referee should not be allowed to referee schools games! Those kinds of values should be kept away from schoolboys; at least 70% of his decisions went against KEVII. Kudos to our boys for maintaining their cool.
The superior fitness of the KEVII side became apparent late in the second half as STAR players began having cramps. This resulted is a breakaway try under the post by KEVII from deep in our own half.
The final score was 20-7 and judging from what I saw, I am confident our team will do well in Sabah. This was a major final and it is a pity there were no busloads of supporters from the school like those days. Also conspicuously missing was the headmaster. Rugby put the school on the map but it appears the successes on the pitch has been taken for granted these days.