KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 11: The national seven-a-side (7s) rugby team got a boost in their preparation for the defence of the SEA Games gold after winning the 2019 Asia Rugby 7s Trophy in Jakarta, Indonesia, today.
Malaysia claimed the title at the Gelora Bung Karno Rugby Field after edging southern neighbours Singapore 17-14 in the cup final, ahead of other ASEAN countries like Thailand, who finished third, Indonesia (6), Laos (8) and Brunei (11).
Earlier in the semi-finals, Malaysia defeated Mongolia 26-0, while in the Pool D fixture, they whipped Laos 36-0 and 56-0 (twice against Laos).
The title also ensures Malaysia a place in Asia’s elite sevens competition – the Asia Rugby Sevens Series 2020 – to play alongside the continent’s best such as Hong Kong, Japan, China, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.
The national team, also known as Rimau 7s, had been rubbing shoulders against the ‘big boys’ in the Asia Rugby Sevens Series since 2012, before being relegated to the second tier after finishing last among eight teams in last year’s edition.
Commenting on the victory, head coach Saizul Hafifi Md Noor said the tournament served as a great exposure for his charges ahead of the Philippines SEA Games from Nov 30 to Dec 11.
“Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God), we have returned to Division 1. It was a good tournament featuring many ASEAN teams, a good exposure and preparation for the SEA Games.
“This win will fire up the spirits of the players in the run-up to the SEA Games. We will rectify our weaknesses before leavig for the Philippines,” he told Bernama via WhatsApp.
Hosts Philippines, who are playing at the Asia Rugby Sevens Series, would be Malaysia’s biggest threat in the SEA Games.
Malaysia bagged the 2017 SEA Games gold in Kuala Lumpur after defeating Singapore 22-7 in the final, while in the 2015 Singapore edition, the national side came back with silver after losing to the Philippines in the gold medal match.