Mongolia made a triumphant return to international rugby in the Asian 5 Nations Division IV tournament at the expense of reigning champions Cambodia and hosts Brunei.
The majority of the Mongols are also competitive wrestlers and had focused on that sport for the past three years. Their superior bulk in comparison to the members of their opposing sides was clearly a decisive factor.
They smashed Brunei 38-13 last Tuesday in the opening match of the division, played at the Balapan Stadium of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex in Berakas, just north of the capital Bandar Seri Bagawan.
Holders Cambodia had kept pace with Mongolia for the first thirty minutes in their game on Thursday, with the scores locked at 5-5.
However, the Koupreys struggled to contend with the power of their regional rivals, going on to lose 49-5 by the end of full time.
Cambodia coach Jerome Alfonsi lamented a lack of possession, with issues in their diminutive forward line. “On average, we gave away 20-30kg for each player . . . and in rugby, this can prove the difference,” he told the Post by email.
With Mongolia already confirmed as the new Division IV champions, Saturday’s meeting between the Leopards of Brunei and Cambodian Koupreys was purely for pride, but a fiercely fought affair nonetheless.
“The players respected what we planned before the match and they played with a big heart,” said coach Alfonsi after they prevailed 25-20.
“The match was very close. We resisted their attacks during the first 20 minutes, and stayed focused and in good position. We [found the advantage] in the second half.
“It was difficult, especially after the Mongolia match, but . . . the players played like never before. I am very proud of them.”