India finish fourth, Malaysia win Asian Rugby Sevens


New Delhi: After a roaring start, India stumbled against Sri Lanka in the semifinals and Malaysia emerged champions on the second and the last day of the Asian Rugby Sevens Championship at the Delhi University here Saturday.

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India, who topped Group B by winning all their three matches Friday, were beaten 19-34 by the under-21 Sri Lankan side Saturday. The hosts, lacking the fizz, then lost to Kazakhstan 7-33 in the match for third place.

In the final, Group A toppers and the top-ranked team here, Malaysia, outclassed the Sri Lankans 38-5 to win the trophy.

Earlier, India continued from where they had left on Friday by beating Pakistan 38-5, displaying a near-flawless game in the quarterfinals for their fourth successive win in the tournament. The only low point for the hosts, ranked second in the tournament, was the one try Pakistan managed to eke out.

Against Sri Lanka, India led 12-10 at half time, but an error-strewn second half saw them losing the plot.

A dejected India captain Nasser Hussain said a few “silly mistakes” cost them the match.

“We made some mistakes. In rugby, every error will cost you seven points. It is demoralising when you lose after putting in so much of hard work. Some silly mistakes spoiled it for us. Sri Lankans never had to work to win the points, they did nothing fanciful, it is we who gave away the match,” Hussain said.

“The strategy against the Sri Lankans was to keep it close and to keep the ball possession as they are faster and like to spin the ball. We stuck to the gameplan in the first half which we dominated. It is unfortunate that we could not execute things in the second session.

“In Sri Lanka, rugby is quite popular and their infrastructure is also very strong. Even their school games are a sell out. So naturally, they are a formidable unit,” Hussain said. “But we went with a positive frame of mind, but it is just those couple of mistakes took the game away from us.”

Reflecting on his boys’ performance, Hussain said they are a far more confident lot now.

“If one thing, that we would be taking back from this competition is the confidence. Every player now has the confidence that the team can lift their game and do better. This was our most successful tournament as we have never won four matches in a row. Also, this was the closest we have come against the Sri Lankans. We will continue to work hard and improve,” Hussain said.

Even the Sri Lankan team admitted that Indians have shown remarkable progress.

“When we played them last year and we found most of the players lacked in skills. This time they gave us a good fight. They have indeed improved a lot,” said Ishan Noor, the island nation’s most promising ruggerite.

Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Malaysia, Brunei, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, besides hosts India, took part in the championship which was essentially to test the facilities for the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games rugby competition.

The Indian team will fly back to Auckland April 20 to resume their training which they found highly useful during their three-week stint there before the championship.