This appears in the Monday, August 29, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror.
Philippine Volcanoes explode at the Asian Men's 7s Championships
by rick olivares
Shanghai, China -- The Philippine Volcanoes rugby team erupted at the 2011 Asian Men's 7s Championships last Saturday, August 27, by beating the United Arab Emirates, 26-7, and top-ranked South Korea, 19-14, in the biggest upset of the tournament at the Yuanshen Stadium in Shanghai, China.
Incredibly, the Philippines started the day ranked 8th in the 12-team two-day tournament and by the day’s end, they topped Pool A and were advancing to the next round of the tournament.
During the first match against UAE, Justin Coveney, nicknamed "the Flying Jeepney" for his smashing runs, broke through the gulf team’s line to score the opening try of the tournament. The Filipinos proved to be quicker and more resolute for the UAE team as Harry Morris and Andrew Wolfe both scored tries (each worth five points) in the second half to guarantee the victory.
Against 2010 winner Korea, the Volcanoes fell into an early 5-0 hole as the defending champions scored on their first try. But Oliver Saunders was able to swoop on a loose ball from Korea to run the length of the field to score under the posts and even the game. Saunders’ big play swung the momentum in favor of the Philippines. Finding their confidence, the Volcanoes continuously smashed the defense backwards which led to mistakes by the Koreans. Coveney scored on the second try to give the Philippines a 14-5 halftime lead.
Korea threw everything at the Philippines in the second half, but the Philippine spirited defense stood firm as Andrew Wolff and Harry Morris pulled off try saving tackles that ripped the insides out of the Korean attack. Coveney was again able to use his size and power to run in the Philippines third try and the Philippines went into the last minute leading 19-5. The Koreans tried to rally as they added nine points but time ran out on the defending champions.
The Philippines, coached by Australian Matt Cullen, advanced to the playoffs along with Pool B winner Japan and runner-up Thailand; Pool C top-notcher Hong Kong and second placer Malaysia; and Pool D leader China and second-running Kazakhstan.
The Volcanoes will play Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals and should they hurdle that assignment, they will move to the semis where they will face the winner of the China-Korea match.
Said Coach Cullen, “I am quite confident that Kazakhstan can be beaten if we keep to our strategy. And if we accomplish that, we will be in a prime position to compete with the top four rugby nations in Asia for a medal position.”
Added Letts, “We need to beat the best to become the best. Both Korea and UAE are some of the best in the world. Winning those games will give us a massive dose of confidence.”
The Asian Men's 7s tournament invites the top twelve Asian Countries to do battle over two tournaments and it can be compared to the Asian Games in terms of caliber of teams and the countries that compete. Korea won the Shanghai 7s in 2010 and is ranked as the favorite to repeat in the 2011 staging.
Rounding out the Volcanoes roster are team captain Jake Letts, Christopher Hitch, Rupert Zappia, Christopher Everingham, Kenneth Mitchell Stern, Mark Chatting, Harry Morris, Jon Morales, John Odulio, Coveney, Saunders, and Wolfe. The team’s coaching staff includes Cullen who has made the Philippines his home and is married to a Filipina, Noel Flowers, and Damian Peter Raper.
Notes: The Philippine Volcanoes got their name from a World War II unit based in the Philippines that included Americans, Englishmen, Australians, and Filipinos. The current Volcanoes team features Filipinos with mixed lineages from the United States, England, and Australia.