20th March, 2017
CLOSE ENCOUNTER … NZ Borneo Eagles together with Pandikar (standing 5th left) after the prize giving ceremony. Vela is standing sixth from right.
By FRANCIS XAVIER
SANDAKAN: Former All Blacks captain Edwin Cocker guided his NZ Borneo Eagles side to the Borneo Sevens International Clubs Rugby Tournament title for the second year running.
The coach-cum-player scored the winning try for his young side as they gained sweet revenge over Tribe 5s of Australia 19-14 in a closely contested final that was played at the home of the Eagles Rugby Clubs (ERC) located at Bandar Utama, Mile 6, Jalan Utara, here yesterday.
The Borneo Eagles had lost 36-14 in the group stage to the same opponent on Saturday, but yesterday, they fought their way back from a try down before clinching the crown with a try from Edwin about two minutes from regulation time.
It was certainly not an easy victory for the host team.
They were trailing 7-0 after only about two minutes of play as Joe Pincus drew first blood for his side with Joshua Coward converting for the additional two points.
But Jonathan Kuku’s try and conversion helped NZ Borneo Eagles to cancel Tribe 7s’ lead as the first half ended seven-all.
After the break, Tribe 7s started strongly and restored their lead through Joshua’s try and conversion barely 14 seconds into the second half.
However, NZ Borneo Eagles were not to be deterred by Tribe 7s good start as they replied through efforts from Daniel Fransen with Jonathan successfully converted the conversion that eventually saw the score line pointing 14-all.
With less than two minutes remaining on the clock, Cocker scored the third try for his side to make the score line 19-14 in NZ Borneo Eagles’ favour, which eventually turned out to be the winning try.
Cocker when met after the match said: “I’m just really privileged to be here again. It was a new team … completely new from last year, and we just want to pay back Mr vela (Tan – ERC President, who is also Sabah Rugby Union President and Malaysia Rugby Deputy President) for all the supports and all the works he did behind the scenes to get us all over here, just privileged to be here in Sabah, Malaysia.”
“We never had the intention that we are gonna win, but we made sure that we did everything right and minimise our mistakes, and just play like there’s no other game left. I think the lost to the same team earlier was good for us because we identified what need to be fixed,” Cocker said.
“It (efforts put in) had to be everything, we know we ain’t want to go home sad, we want to be happy going on the plane that we’ve come here and done the work needed.
To a question whether they have what it takes to take the game into the hand, Cocker said: “I had to a lot of explaining to the boys and I think nothing beats on passing on your knowledge by being involved by actually showing them how to do it, you know you are only going to get experience when you are playing in this kind of games.”
On his winning try, the soft spoken Cocker said: “I’m just happy to be at the right place and at the right time, it could have been any of the boys.”
Earlier on, Sri Lanka clinched the women’s title after they downed Thailand 12-5 in the final while Korea finished as the Plate winner after defeating Malaysia 17-0 with Singapore taking the Bowl’s crown after edging Eagles RFC Philippines 20-7 in the decider.
Dinowin-KSDBKL won the men’s Plate title. They defeated Sri Lanka 33-15 in the final.
Singapore men’s registered a 19-17 win over Malaysia to take the men’s Bowl crown while Alabang Eagles of the Philippines walked home with the Shield title following their 26-7 victory over COBRA.
For the record, a total of 10 teams competed in the men’s category and seven in the women’s category in the two-day tournament organised by ERC.
Sabah Rugby Union Advisor, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, who is a Dewan Rakyat Speaker, was there to give away the prizes to the winners. Vela together with his SRU and ERC committee members were also present.