THE INSTITUT Kemahiran Mara (IKM) Lumut rugby team finally ended their title drought after emerging champions in the inaugural Universiti Sains Malaysia Rugby Sevens Championship.
The IKM Lumut squad, made up of Under-22 students of the Perak-based institute, were made to work hard before edging out the Universiti Malaysia Perlis (Unimap) team 21-19 in the final held at the USM ground in Penang on Sunday.
Earlier in the semi-finals, IKM Lumut had produced a stunning performance to rout one of the pre-tournament favourites Navy Orca 14-0 while Unimap overcame UPSI Eagles 14-7 to book their place in the final.
A total of 24 rugby teams from all over the country competed during the two-day championship.
“Prior to competing in Penang, the squad underwent a one-week intensive training. Every player was high in confidence, and we knew that we had a real shot at winning our first-ever title in this tournament.
“In our previous competitions, we always falter at the semi-final hurdle. It feels fantastic to finally go all the way and clinch the title. This is our first and biggest triumph since this rugby team was set up two years ago,” said IKM Lumut captain Ahmad Izzuddin Zulkifli.
As a reward for winning the USM Sevens crown, the IKM Lumut team will get to compete for the first time in the Songkhla Rugby Sevens Championship in Haadyai, Thailand, next month.
IKM Lumut’s previous best result was emerging as runners-up in the plate category in the Silver Gaurus International Rugby Championship in Ipoh in November last year.
Despite the heartbreak of losing the final by a mere two points, Unimap gained some consolation when their player Ashraf Ariffin was named the Best Player of the Championship.
The organisers of the inaugural USM Sevens meet, the USM Jokers Rugby Club, are mulling the idea of making the tournament an annual affair. The USM Jokers currently organise the USM Rugby 10s tournament regularly, and are open to the idea of having a second annual rugby tournament to cater for the northern region teams.
“Unlike the Klang Valley, there is a shortage of competitions and matches for the rugby teams in the northern region. We are encouraged by the success of this inaugural USM Rugby Sevens competition, and are seriously considering making it an annual affair,” said the tournament’s organising committee chairman Muhd Norhafizuedin Husin.
“There are plenty of young rugby talents in the northern region, but sadly many do not get the chance to show off their potential because of a lack of opportunities and competitions.
“The timing of this tournament also suits the USM Jokers and teams from the other institutes of higher education that are currently preparing for the national inter-varsity rugby competition in April, which is also a seven-a-side competition.
“The USM rugby squad made it to the quarter-finals of the national meet last year, and we are aiming to qualify for at least the semi-finals in this year’s challenge,” said Norhafizuedin, who is also a USM Jokers player.
Host USM A finished a creditable seventh after defeating UiTM Penang B 12-5 in the 7th placing playoff.
Semi-finals: IKM Lumut bt Navy Orca 14-0, Unimap bt UPSI Eagles 14-7.
Third placing: Navy Orca bt UPSI Eagles 14-0.
Final: IKM Lumut bt Unimap 21-19.