November 9, 2019 will go down as a historic day for Rugby League both in the Philippines and across Asia.
In what was the first home Test Match for the Tamarawas since 2013, the Philippines National side boasted a team made up of home grown talent to defend the Asian Cup which they had successfully held and defended since 2012 against a Japanese Samuaris squad looking to build off their strong international season in 2018.
In front of a large crowd at the Aurora fields in Baler, the Tamaraws struggled to maintain possession in their own 50m handing the Samuaris good field position which the more experienced Japanese outfit exploited against a Philippines squad who were adjusting to the speed of International football. Despite this, the home side rallied and towards the second quarter of the match were making inroads on the Japanese line with experience the only thing letting them down when it come to converting this into points.
At the change of ends at halftime the Japanese side lead 38 – 0, but to the credit of the home team, they pushed the visitors in the opening 20 minutes of the second half and eventually crossed for their first points through a Liam Johnston break.
The Samuaris finished the match 74 – 4 victors, giving Japan their first Asian Cup victory and the title of Asian Champions after the side successfully defeated the Hong Kong Thunder late last year.
Despite the significant loss the large crowd celebrated with the players and officials, including touch judge, Carla S. Gestiada who became the first certified female official in the Philippines to be involved in an International clahs.
Off the back of the match, the Aurora region will become a significant focus for the Philippines National Rugby League with 6 – 8 new domestic teams planned over the next two years with more International games and Development clinics planned as the PNRL look to capitalise on the strong interest off the back of the Asian Cup match.