After dodging the bullet in a heart-stopping 20-17 come-from-behind win over Singapore Wednesday, the Philippine Volcanoes seek to put up a more explosive performance in Saturday’s finals of the Asian Rugby Championship Division 1 tournament against Sri Lanka.
The slow-starting Volcanoes trailed by as many as 10 points against the upset-conscious Singaporeans but leaned hard on their fighting spirit to salvage the victory to the delight of supporters who never gave up on them in the match that went to extra time.
“I’m very proud of the way our squad finished the game. It wasn’t the most clinical performance but we showed Philippine spirit and never gave up,” said skipper Oliver Saunders.
Alex Aronson came off the bench to lead the Filipinos’ rally, scoring a penalty kick in the second half of extra time to deliver the “golden points” that sent the hosts to Saturday’s gold medal match. Aronson was also responsible for forcing the extension with his try and successful conversion in the last play of regulation.
“It was really a good effort. We didn’t really help ourselves out a lot of times and so we had to fight back,” said Aronson.
The “16th man” at their home turf – the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan – also provided the energy that kept the embattled Volcanoes going.
“Amazing support. They came all the way out here to support us. They’re the best fans, they pushed us on when it’s tough to keep fighting on. I’m proud to represent them, proud to represent the Philippines,” said Aronson.
The top-ranked Volcanoes will gun for the ARC Division 1 crown on Saturday night against No. 2 Sri Lanka, which looked good in a 35-14 demolition of Kazakhstan in the semis.
“Looking forward to the next game,” said Aronson.