The Philippines sevens team’ road to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ended last 8 November 2015 but the “underdogs” of Rugby Asia gave the best of their abilities during the two-day tournament held at Hong Kong stadium.
Organized by Asia Rugby, the Asia Rugby Sevens Qualifiers featured 10 teams. The winner of the qualifier in the Hong Kong competition will receive automatic spot for the national Olympic committee to participate in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Japan won the final cup against Hong Kong with a 24-10 victory.
The Philippines won the game against Iran on Saturday (38-10). Gareth Holgate, Jason Lynch, Andrew Ramsden, and Lito Ramirez all scored points. Homegrown rookie Ramirez scored his first point at an international try that sealed the win against the towering Iranians. Ramirez is also the first full-born and bred Filipino who has learned his rugby in the Philippines.
“Our team has got a lot of speed and skill. As you saw in the previous game [Malaysia], guys like Jason Lynch and Andrew Ramsden have great footwork so that will be our key for the last game [against Iran],” said Philippine team captain Jake Letts in an interview after their first game against Malaysia.
“I’m confident that our players will perform to the best of their abilities. That’s all that we can ask to all, to myself, and coaching knows that. We’re going to be on that team 100 percent and hopefully all the Filipinos in the Philippines and Filipinos in Hong Kong will be behind us.”
On Day 2, the Volcanoes won against Singapore (22-12) in game 27, resulting in having them ranked 7th in the overall tournament.
Established in 2008, the Volcanoes have represented the Philippines in international rugby unions, according to its website.
The insignia ‘volcanoes’ comes from the first Filipino infantry regiment that fought under the command of the United States Army. At that time, there were Filipino-Americans with a few Filipino veterans who fought in World War II.
In this year’s rugby sevens, the Philippine Volcanoes was composed of 12 members with Geoff Alley as head coach and Matt Cullen as the team’s manager.
Last 5 November 2015, the team had a meet and greet in a restaurant in Hong Kong sponsored by the Philippine Association of Hong Kong.
“As players, we play the game more so to enjoy the game. To have supporters in the Filipino community in Hong Kong and to show their support, it means a lot. You find that when players go back to their hotel, everyone is amazed. ‘Wow,’ it’s more than just rugby. It’s about our pride. It’s about our people and our community,” says Letts.
This year’s Philippine Volcanoes Sevens Team include:
- Jason Celeda Lynch
- Kai Ledesma Stroem
- Andrew Pagalilaun Ramsden
- Kenneth Capinpin Stern
- Gareth Dela Rosa Holgate
- Jake Robrigado Letts
- Lito Ramirez
- Christopher Baltazar Hitch
- Harrison Carceller Blake
- Robert Amalay Jones
- Harry Dionson Morris
- Volney Ricafort Rouse
Head coach: Geoff Alley
Team manager: Matt Cullen
Physiotherapist Stephanie Yee
Game #3: Malaysia vs. the Philippines (15-10)
Game #11: Hong Kong vs. the Philippines (29-0)
Game #15: the Philippines vs. Iran (38-10)
Game #20: Sri Lanka vs. the Philippines (50-5)
Game #21 (Plate Semi-Final): China vs. the Philippines (26-15)
By Jefferson Mendoza, Contributing Editor