Women’s Rugby is far from being popular in India’s sporting landscape. But some less popular Rugby players created history when they won against higher-ranked Singapore in the Asia Women’s Division 1 Rugby XVs Championship. It is the women’s team first-ever international 15s win. As India won 21-19, they bagged the bronze in the tournament. China won gold with an incredible 68-0 victory over hosts Philippines.
After playing in Rugby Sevens for nine years, the women’s team made its international debut in 15-a-side Rugby with a tri-nation tournament in Singapore in June 2018. The foremost difference between the two formats is obviously the number of players. In 15s there are 15 players sharing the 100m x 70m rugby field rather than seven as in 7s Rugby. Additionally, the total game duration in 7s is 14 minutes while each half in 15s lasts 40 minutes. India had lost 30-5 to the same Singapore side in their first 15s international match.
Bihar’s Sweety Kumari was the star of the win who scored two first-half tries to set the team on its winning way. India was in trouble when Singapore hit back with two tries. They even took the lead for the first time when Annabel Woo Xui Ni scored her second try of the game. India captain, Pune’s Vahbiz Bharucha, then opted for a penalty which was successfully converted by Odisha’s Sumitra Nayak. Singapore hit back with two tries of its own, but a third from India left the scores at 15-12. However, with another penalty, Nayak propelled India to a historic win.
Interestingly, seven of the 15-player team are from Odisha. The sports ministry of the state congratulated the Indian team with a message- “Rugby India women won their first-ever test match and a bronze medal in the Asian C’ship, thanks to two penalty convertions by Odisha player Sumitra Nayak against Singapore. Proud of you Sumitra !”