Oro rugby team bags Shield Division trophy

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Thursday, May 22, 2014


FOR the first time in the Philippine National Games Rugby 7 tournament, a rookie team from Cagayan de Oro which made its debut a national appearance won the Shield Division trophy during the competition in Manila held on April 25.

“We never expected to win. As a team which just started, we participated in the games to experience what it feels like to be in a national tournament. We played in the finals against the Umak Herons and proved that we can do it even with our lesser experience,” said Noel Villa, team founder and playing coach of Cagayan de Oro Rafters Football Rugby club.
Villa recalled what they had to do amid injuries.

“We had 12 players; I was actually carrying an injury with a dislocated shoulder from our last game two months ago. Luis was the one who replaced me on the Team roster. But for the Finals I asked Philippine Rugby-Football Union (PRFU) if I may be allowed to play as most of my players we're injured so I was down to my last 7and we conquered beating the Herons 27 to 5,” said Villa.

Villa led the final game and recalled the emotional moment. “Having already lost the previous games, morale was bit down. I told the guys either way we’re already winners because we played against very competitive teams and the final was our only sixth full tackle game. Compared to others, we were the virgins as all teams have played lots of games compared to us,” said Villa.

The rafter’s playing coach furthered that he had to find a way to encourage the team.

“I told them that I am playing with an injury but I would gladly play alongside them if they would fight for the cup. I gathered everyone in the middle of the field but I was feeling emotional, so I asked someone else to lead the prayer before the kickoff and it worked,” said Villa while recalling the emotional final game.

“We played our hearts out and the sores soon disappeared when the tries just came in for us. It was an awesome feeling to prove that we can play. One of the best Challenges I have faced as a coach and a player,” he concluded.

In the PRFU website they described the Rafters as a team to watch for as they proved to everyone that despite being rookie team, it won a division trophy.

“Playing only for a few months, the Rafters impressed its spectators with the impressive tackling technique and strength in contact,” read a statement on the site.

The site explained why the Shield Division Most valuable Player was awarded to Rafter’s member Luis Banaag.

“Banaag showed everyone that there’s no backing out in a game of Rugby when he continued to play the remaining games after he got hit hard from a previous game. For his courageous effort, he was awarded the Shield MVP medal,” the statement concluded.

Banaag was a soccer player before he played with the Rafter’s for only two months.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 23, 2014.

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