After 57 games of rugby throughout the competition, the Alabang Eagles Rugby Club claimed victory over the Manila Nomads in the grand finals of the 2016 SPI 15s league. The SPI 15s League acts as Philippine Rugby’s local domestic tournament aimed at improving the development of rugby in the Philippines. It is the sports equivalent to the sanctioned Philippine Football Federations United Football League (UFL).
It had taken the visitors and reigning 2015 league champions up until the final 3 minutes to secure a back-to-back title after a desperate last haul from the Manila Nomads. Philippine Volcano and Alabang Eagles team captain Timothy Bweheni led from the front with both his try scoring ability and conversion rate proving valuable in his teams’ victory. The Manila Nomads looked to experienced campaigners to withhold the Eagles dominance however the absence of star player and current Philippine Volcano and U19s team captain Kai Ledesma Stroem for the grand final proved costly.
“We went down six to nothing in the first few minutes of the game but the Eagles didn’t keep their heads down. The team also made a few errors towards the end that almost lost us the game but no one panicked, all I saw was determination in the players’ eyes. Everyone believed in each other, trusted each other and played for each other. I think that’s the reason why we picked ourselves up from trailing 6 points down on the first quarter of the game to come on out on top for the grand final” shared Bweheni, team captain after the Eagles ran out eventual winners 24 points to 16.
The Plate Division final saw the CBRE Makati Mavericks Plate Champions for the first year after a close encounter over their close rivals the Alabang Ibons. The Alabang Ibons went undefeated throughout the tournament rounds however the pressures of finals football fell in favor to the Mavericks. The Mavericks welcomed back Philippine Volcano Alexander Norona Aronson from injury and with Lito Ramirez continuing his stellar form the Mavericks it proved favorably to withhold a spirited Alabang team. A final minute penalty goal in the dying minute by U19 Philippine Volcano Ryan Santos secured a 13 points to 10 victory for the Mavericks.
“I was really proud of the effort our players put in. I felt we played some brave and gutsy defense, fronting up to a much bigger and on the whole more experienced Ibons side. I’m also proud of the development and improvement of our local Filipino players and grassroots high school players. We suffered a 60 to nil loss to them earlier in the year and we able to regroup and best them in the final. It really shows how far we’ve come as a group, and it was a great way to finish the season.” Added Philippine Volcano and Makati Maverick Aronson.
After the announcement of the forced closure of Nomads Sports Club, the birthplace of Philippine Rugby, it was an emotional end to what may have been the last game of rugby at the century old venue, with rugby dating back to the early 1960s. The Philippine Rugby Football Union now looks to August for the launch of the 2016 PRFU Corporate 7s League to a new venue within Metro Manila. And with Rugby 7s inclusion into the Rio Olympic Games the sport looks to gain valuable exposure with the fast paced and exciting style of 7s rugby being displayed on the world’s most exclusive stage.