All Smiles by Dad Bear (Adrian Tan)
All Smiles, a photo by Dad Bear (Adrian Tan) on Flickr.

18/4/2013, St Andrew’s Primary School.

With the success of the U13 team in Nationals the previous day still fresh on everyone’s mind, the spotlight now shifted onto the U11 team. This team had gone through its ups and downs, given that no U11 team from ACS(J) has ever won the South Zone tournament, let alone the Nationals. So to ask them to emulate the achievements of their seniors would be tough to ask for, or was it?

A little bit of background going into the South zone tournament. With the onset of the One ACS concept, teams from ACSJ and ACSP had regular sparring sessions almost every week. In the two tournaments that the ACSJ U11 team had taken part in so far, they were slapped around, bounced around, and knocked about in the Bintang BRC tournament in KL. That tournament only served to forge the metal of the weapon that this team of quiet achievers would ultimately become. In the Standard Chartered Tournament, they played decently, but lost ultimately to eventual winners, De La Salle Primary by 0-14. Significantly, De La Salle also defeated Saint Andrews, albeit by a score of 7-14. This gave the coaches and teachers hope. The standard in ability between the rivals was razor thin. Maybe winning the South Zone was not all that impossible, just maybe.

The first match on the cards that afternoon for ACSJ was against brother school, ACSP. Both teams had their chances, but it was the ability of ACSJ team to defend the slow ball which saw them dominate at the breakdown, ultimately leading to a decisive 21-0 win. Saints in their first match, took down Pei Tong 28-0.

In the second match, ACSJ took on Pei Tong. Again, decisive breaks by the backs saw ACSJ stretch their opponents’ defence, breaching the line 3 times for a 21-0 win. In second match, Saints, took down ACSJ 28-0, setting up a winner take all finale between ACSJ and Saints.

At that very moment, I am sure all ACSJ related parent/teacher/coach started to entertain the possibility that the impossible might actually be possible again, but we didn’t dare to say anything, lest we jinx ourselves. After all, Saints are no pushovers and we were playing on their home grounds. But maybe, just maybe, in a 10 minute match, we might just pull off a miracle.

Saints struck first in the match with ACS(J), breaking away to the left which was left unattended as our players congregated near the middle. 7-0 in the opening minutes. We were facing a mountain to climb. However, using good forward play and rucking, coupled with a couple good incisive runs from the backs, in particular, Josiah, Matthew and Kaylen, the lads struck back swiftly. They equalised soon after going down and then, did the unthinkable by going forward 14-7 with some 3 minutes to play. The 3 minutes must surely by the longest 3 minutes for the parents and coaches. First, a break from midfield by saints was stopped just short of the try line. Saints try to muscle through but were repelled by the lads on the line itself. Our boys were so willing to put their bodies on the line. When the ball broke out to the Saints left, yet again, they were repelled just short of the line. When they thought that they had crossed the line, the eagle eyed ref noticed the double motion, and correctly called a penalty against Saints. Just then the horn sounded and it was an alert Kaylen who took the ball and punted it out of play, signalling a historical victory for the U11 team and also for ACSJ. Mind you, even our U13’s fell to Saints at this stage last year, when they were playing at the U11 level.

There were tears and whoops of joy from parents, teachers, coaches and of course, the players themselves. The Saints boys were stunned. They had thrown everything short of the kitchen sink at the ACSJ defence and nothing gave. This definitely augurs well for ACSJ rugby. The U11 Nationals are known for producing surprising winners. So we still much to do before scaling that next mountain. In the meantime, we should celebrate and give thanks for the many blessings that we as a school, as a CCA and as a community, have received. Not to mention, there is a small matter of finding a an unoccupied blank wall(s) in the school.

More pictures in the South Zone final can be seen here:

To God be the Glory, The Best is Yet to Be.