Wednesday 6 April 2016 – This was the opening games of the GRFU tour to Asia, 2016 and after an early morning swimming pool session with team Fitness Coach, Sally Holmes, both the Development/Veteran squad and the National Team headed back to the hosts facilities at Cobra Rugby Club House for a quick lunch before making the bus journey to UKM MiniStadium.
First up were Gibraltar Veterans/Development taking on a Malaysia Veterans Select team featuring Veterans and some of Cobra Club’s development team. Some old(er) hands and potentially hazy heads on both sides meant the game leant itself towards the forwards, with many a scrum to be enjoyed! When Gibraltar’s Development Team players did manage to get their hands on the ball, their youth showed with fast feet and a series of slick backs’ moves.
The Malaysian team’s backs were equally talented and offloaded from the tackle whenever possible. This led to a fast-paced game but one filled with numerous handling errors as both sides tried to gain an advantage over their opponents. Halfway through the first half with the Malaysians defending a scrum 10 metres out from their tryline, good pressure in the scrum and on the home team’s fly-half led to a clearing kick that only reached Adam Cook near to the halfway mark on Gibraltar’s left wing. With a brilliant piece of individual skill, he chipped over the approaching defensive line only to collect his own kick some 5 metres from the try line to dot down in the corner. Rich Hatchman failed to convert putting the Gibraltarian team up by 5 points to nil.
Shortly after the restart, a high tackle from a Gibraltar player led to a penalty which the Malaysians took quickly. A fast, through-the-hands move from their backs left their winger with acres of space to nip down the wing to score under the posts. A slip as their kicker took the drop-goal conversion meant the scores were tied at 5 all at half time.
The game remained a draw throughout the second half with neither team able to break the stalemate. The half-time lightning storm which delayed the start of the second half had brought in some rain which led to a close-knit contest between both sets of forwards. Eventually, some attacking defensive pressure from Gibraltar caused confusion as Malaysia were trying to clear their lines, finally fumbling the ball over their own dead ball line. The subsequent 5-metre scrum was shunted forward by the Gibraltar pack allowing Captain and number 8, Chris Lyons, to pick up and force his way over the line to score. The final whistle blew as the conversion sailed wide of the posts.
Final Score: Malaysia Select 5-10 Gibraltar Development/Veterans.
Having warmed up whilst the second half was underway in the previous game, the national teams of Malaysia and Gibraltar took to the field shortly after the final whistle had blown. The presentation of their teams by the captains of both sides to the match delegates was followed by the National Anthems and quickly thereafter by the opening blast of the referee’s whistle.
The slippery conditions following the earlier rain meant the first scrum wasn’t long in coming and the two, evenly-matched packs were soon packing down. Gibraltar’s forwards quickly asserted their scrum-time dominance, an area of the game which has quickly become the cornerstone of their performances. Pushing the Malaysian team off the ball and winning the scrum against the head, a short attacking move led to a penalty for not releasing once the ruck had formed. Malaysia kicked for the corner and the rolling maul that followed led to the opening score. Converted from out near the touchline, Malaysia took the lead by 7 points to nil.
The remainder of the first half followed a very similar pattern. Gibraltar dominant at the scrum took numerous penalties against the head. Solid defence from the Malaysians as well as the touring side meant fast backs were regularly meeting solid walls of defending players. The Malaysian backs however kept the ball under control and managed a number of silky offload manoeuvres which any International 7s team would have been proud of, running in 3 more tried before the end of the half. Add a penalty to this and the halftime score was a healthy 27 to nil lead to the home side.
Gibraltar were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half, attacking well and holding the Malaysian team in their 22 for the opening 10 minutes of the half. Multiple penalties were given against the defending team with Gibraltar opting for the scrum each time. On another day, a penalty try or yellow card would perhaps have been given. Ultimately, after another attacking scrum, the ball slid out of the side of pack for the home-team 9 to kick downfield ending the attack.
A Gibraltar attacking lineout is stolen leading to a now-familiar sight: a break away by the sizeable Malaysian inside centre who then offloads out of the tackle for the right wing to finish off between the posts. Another late penalty kick followed by a similar break by the Malaysia 12 feeding to the substitute full-back to score again brought the score approaching full-time to 42-0 to the home side.
The game came to its conclusion with more attacking runs from Gibraltar’s backs, notably from Matthew Isola, Teddy Sacarello and Hamish Couper, but Malaysia’s defence proved too tight to break through. A last gasp interception saw the Malaysians sprint almost the length of the field to score a final time.
Final Score: Malaysia 49-0 Gibraltar