By Erick Elefante, Date: 29/10/12
Rugby League history was created at the Royal Thai Police Stadium in Bangkok on the 21st October 2012, with the Philippines PAL Tamaraws and the Thailand Stars playing for the inaugural Asian cup trophy in the first ever Rugby League international being played in Asia!
More history was also made with NSW RL officials Gavin and Kasey Badger being the first husband and wife combination refereeing an International match.
The Philippines National Rugby League (PNRL) came into this tournament with one clear goal in mind which is to lay the ground work to qualify for the 2017, Rugby League World Cup in Australia.
Since the Bowl Trophy win at the Cabramatta International 9s on the 4th February 2012 the PNRL Coaching staff and national players have been preparing for the Rugby League International in Thailand with training runs in Brisbane and Sydney since April 2012.
The 86-0 score line to the PAL Tamaraws was a reflection of the players and management future plans for this team.
Even though the PAL Tamaraws are predominantly Filipino-Australians with one Filipino-New Zealander and one player from the Philippines, the pride in their Filipino heritage, was evident when the National anthem Lupang Hinirang was played during the opening ceremony, with many a tear being shed as these players prepared to go into Rugby League battle for the Philippines.
The passion and intention of the PAL Tamaraws was evident in the first couple of minutes with the team receiving the ball from the kick off and making easy yards up the field, with Thailand giving away an early penalty with one of their players raking the ball out of the hands of a Filipino player.
The ensuing play, almost led to the Philippines first try with Richard Goodwin being forced out the touchline.
The PAL Tamaraws kept the Thailand Stars bottled up in their 20meters after the scrum, with solid defence keeping pressure on them after the Thai half back failed with his kick with pressure from both Gold Coast Titans players Matt Srama and Kevin Gordon.
After forcing more errors from the Thailand Stars, they finally gave way in their defence, with Ned Stephenson finding a big gap to score the historical first try of the Asian Cup Rugby League International next to the post.
The Thailand Stars had broken in the first 5 minutes and in the next 15minutes before the first drinks break the PAL Tamaraws were up 24-0.
The next 20minutes before half time followed the first, with the experience, skill and talent of the PAL Tamaraws telling, with the team going into the half time sheds leading 46-0.
During the break Captain Luke Srama reminded his players of what the team was in Thailand for. Which was to convincingly win the Asian Cup trophy – he did not want the Philippines try line breached!
The start of the second half was the best period for the Thailand Stars, where they almost scored on a couple of occasions with solid PAL Tamaraw defence forcing them to cough up the ball as they looked like scoring.
With only a 58-0 score line in the first quarter of the second half, the passion of the Filipino-heritage players was evident, with side line players concerned, when the team was making little headway against determined Thailand Stars defence. With the players also bunching up in attack eager to score tries but throwing away their game plan.
It was at this point of disappointment that Captain Luke Srama and his Gold Coast Titans brother Matt Srama implored Coach Watene to be let back on to the field so that they could reorganize the defence and attack of the PAL Tamaraws and continue their attacking momentum and hold their defensive line. It was attitude like this that showed how important this game was for these Filipino players, though in front they were determined to not let go of the preassure on the Thailand Stars.
As the game drew into its final quarter, momentum had swung back the Philippines way. The determination to end the game as it started with focus was evident with only a minute of play to go when a PAL Tamaraw player on the sideline shouted â€œnext try wins boysâ€. With Kevin Gordon complying, scoring the final try in the last minute of this historical inaugural Asian Cup Rugby League International at the Royal Thai Police Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand.
Amongst all the courage, skill and determination shown by all the Filipino players shown on this historical Rugby League International, the PAL Tamaraw players chose William Dreves as man of the match, the best player amongst them and he was duly awarded the Greg Cross medal for his great performance at full back.
Dennis Gordon *3
Will Dreves *2
Kevin Gordon *2
Luke Srama *2
Matt Srama *6
Will Dreves *4
Kevin Gordon *2