MABALACAT, Pampanga - Team Philippines capped off impressive runs in the rugby tournament of the 30th Southeast Asia Games by capturing gold and silver in the men's and women's medal matches Sunday at the Clark Parade Grounds.
The men's team completed a sweep of the event by blanking Malaysia 19-0 in the gold medal match.
After blowing out the Malaysians in their final round robin assignment, the Filipinos wasted no time putting the game out of reach again by scoring a try and a conversion in the first five minutes courtesy of Robert Luceno and Luc Villalba, who gave the Nationals a quick 7-0 lead.
Villalba scored another conversion to put the Philippines up 14-0 at the half before Justin Villazor put the finishing touches in the second half with a try for five more points.
"Obviously it would be a huge boost for rugby in the Philippines," said coach Frano Botica. "In the last SEA Games, we actually got knocked out by Thailand and they beat us twice and we came fourth."
The women's team was not able to replicate that same feat earlier after surrendering a 17-7 result in their own final.
Thailand, who also handed the Philippines its only round robin loss in a 38-7 rout, broke the game open quickly with two tries in the first half for a 10-0 lead at the break.
Erica Mae Legaspi and Aumi Ono tried to close the gap for the team by scoring a try and a conversion to make it only a three-point lead, 10-7, but the Thais answered with five points of their own two minutes later to take the fight out of the Filipinas.
"Hopefully we get a lot more airtime and a lot more recognition from the country. We believe it's a sport suited for all Filipinos," women's coach Fetalai Tauaa said. "And one thing we really want to do is become good ambassadors for the sport, and hopefully we get more and more people following and trying their hand in rugby, especially women."
These finishes are marked improvements from the rugby teams' last outings in the 2017 SEA Games, where they both fell short of podium finishes after coming in fourth.