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Homeschools‘Heart-stopping’ win as ACS (I) beat St Andrew’s 36-34 in C Division...

‘Heart-stopping’ win as ACS (I) beat St Andrew’s 36-34 in C Division rugby final

SINGAPORE – When the ball left Wesley Choo’s boot near the end of the National School Games C Division rugby boys’ final on Tuesday, the 1,000-strong crowd held their collective breath.

With St Andrew’s Secondary School having scored a crucial try against Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) just moments earlier to reduce the deficit to 36-34, a two-point conversion would have sent the match at the Jurong West Stadium into extra time.

Alas, Wesley’s attempt sailed centimetres wide of the right post, sending the ACS(I) players and supporters into delirium as they sealed their sixth consecutive title.

It was also their 24th victory, having made it to every C Div final since 1993.

The Saints, meanwhile, were denied an opportunity to mount an improbable comeback – by mere centimetres. Wesley, 13, collapsed to the ground in disbelief.

“I let my team down, the supporters, the parents and everybody that was with us for the whole season,” said the Secondary 1 student, still in tears.

“It was such an important kick so I took more time to warm up. I was really hoping the kick went in but this one just didn’t.”

Saints coach Sam Chan said: “Wesley is usually very accurate with his conversions but this one was from a tough position and maybe the pressure got to him.

“I think rugby is like that, you know. You win some, you lose some, right? The boys really tried their best.”

Chan’s side had started slow, after individual errors led to ACS(I) seizing a 21-3 advantage midway through the first half, courtesy of two tries from fly-half Iestyn John.

But a pair of tries from the Saints either side of half-time reduced the deficit to 21-17.

With both teams eager to play on the front foot, an end-to-end match ensued, with ACS(I) extending their advantage to 36-29.

With the final play of the game, St Andrew’s Muhammad Hazim Azhar scored his second try, setting up the nail-biting finale, when Wesley missed the crucial conversion kick.

ACS(I) coach Adrian Chong was relieved to have avoided extra time.

“I wasn’t sure if extra time was going to be too advantageous to us,” he said. “But my boys had the mental fortitude and physical ability to hold on.

“There are a lot of tired bodies out there that battled hard for over an hour. The end result is the most important thing and we defended our title.”

Noting that they had given away quite a bit of unnecessary points and allowed the Saints back into the game, Chong added: “That was very heart-stopping.

“But I think we are deservedly champions this year because of the effort they put in, in the last few minutes of the game.”

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His players had gone to a K Cuts outlet at One North on Saturday to fulfil their yearly tradition of shaving bald before a C Division final, to signify that everyone is an equal on the pitch.

It was a practice Chong started to promote togetherness when he took charge of the team in 1993.

Iestyn, who scored 26 of ACS(I)’s 36 points, was lauded by Chong as “one of the best talents in his age group”.

The Sec 2 student, who racked up three tries, one penalty kick and four successful conversions, said: “I think overall my game could have been so much better. I could have made fewer mistakes.

“But it feels good to win. If we went to extra time, their momentum would have probably carried them over the line.”

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