KUALA LUMPUR: The national junior sevens squad once again proved they are right up there with the best in the region when it comes to age group competitions after winning the Asia Rugby Under-18 Championship in Johor Baru today.
The squad opened their campaign in the round robin format competition with comfortable wins over Hong Kong (31-5), South Korea (47-5) and Laos (53-0) at the EduCity Stadium in Nusajaya yesterday.
They then secured victory thanks to wins against China (19-17), Qatar (34-0) and Uzbekistan (40-0) in their last three matches in the competition today.
It saw them ending the tournament with a 100 per cent record with 18 points. In total they scored 224 and conceded only 27.
China and Hong Kong ended the competition with 15 points each. China (+152), however, ranked second thanks to a better score difference while Hong Kong (+134) settled for third.
National Rugby Development Programme (NRDP) head coach Md Baharudin Mahani, who led the Under-18 squad in Johor, said he was not surprised his charges won the competition.
"The boys' had worked hard in preparing for this competition and the signs were positive when they defeated Serdang Angels in a friendly prior to the tournament," said Baharudin.
"We had expected Hong Kong and South Korea to be difficult to beat but it was actually China who were our toughest opponents this time.
"This win in the result of all the hard work we had put into this team via the NRDP programme since early last year. We finished fourth in the Asia Rugby Under-17 Championships in Taiwan last year and runners-up at the Paris World Games (Under-18) category in July.
"We have to thank Malaysia Rugby (MR) for the trust and support they have placed in this team."
National juniors had in the past won the 2011 and 2012 Asia Rugby Football Union Under-20 Championships, which had also been held in Johor during both years.
Many of the players from the 2011-2012 Under-20 squad had gone on to play for Malaysia at the 2015 Singapore and 2017 Kuala Lumpur Sea Games where the team won Silver and Gold respectively.