By Harsha Amarasinghe
Kandy Sports Club got the better of Havelock Sports Club in what was meant to be the toughest fixture of their season at Havelock Park on Saturday to leave the rest of the top division sides peering into the distance at the Dialog Inter-Club League Rugby Tournament.
The only unbeaten team of the competition thus far, the defending champions have collected a total of 40 points, opening up an 11-point gap at the summit while all the other teams have at least been beaten twice or more.
Kandy though did not have it their way. Especially in the first half they were made to work for their points by the home team.
On paper, Kandy were the favourites coming into the game. With a team full of super stars which perhaps played a part in Havies opting for three-pointers on a few occasions rather than pressing for tries. With Dulaj Perera and Rizah Mubarak, two top place kickers in the country, the home team took a 6-0 lead inside 15 minutes and later squandered opportunities to add a few more points.
Havelock are one of the biggest teams in the country and it would be interesting to see if they would go for points rather than going for the touch against other teams, so early in a game. Perhaps Kandy being the champion side played a role in the Havies’ decision making. Navy Sports Club committed the same mistake two years ago to lose the title on the final day of the competition up in Nittawela.
Kandy though were quite professional; the manner in which they went about their business on Saturday especially taking part in a tough away game. Despite the pressure of playing their nearest rival to the title, a couple of yellow cards and conceding a 3-6 lead at the breather, Kandy kept themselves in the game and took the lead once through prop Yakoob Ali early in the second half, with one team winning from there onwards.
Army marching on
What a season this is turning out to be for Army Sports Club who have marched on to the third place of the points table firmly ahead of some of the leading clubs.
Sri Lanka Rugby may have closed the door on Nilfer Ibrahim, but Army’s success is down to the superb tactics of the former Isipathana head coach.
The forces do not have the luxury of splashing out cash like some of the financially strong sides which is why, they field a very similar squad season after season. This makes Ibrahim’s achievement look even better because he has been working with the same team that finished sixth last season, but the results have been absolutely staggering.
The level of self-belief in that Army team was seen on Sunday when they bounced back from a 22-5 deficit to seal a cracking 33-32 victory over Air Force.
It was a battle between the two fly-haves Gayantha Iddamalgoda of Air Force and Army’s top scorer Ashan Bandara. These two have played in that position better than any other player in the division this season, but it would not be a surprise if they don’t make it to the national side because they are from the forces, so in the eyes of national selectors, they don’t seem to exist, so they exit.
Maduwantha shines for CH
The decision to start Samuel Maduwantha as fly-half has turned out to be a masterstroke by CH and FC as the former St. Anthony’s star led them towards another morale boosting win over Navy Sports Club.
Maduwantha is better known for his place kicking, but since replacing captain Rohitha Rajapaksa as the stand-off, he has certainly added a lot of creativity to his game which is really helping CH and FC big time. On the other hand, Rohitha Rajapaksa is actually doing a decent job as number eight.
Two flankers Yoshitha Rajapaksa and Sasanka Ariyaratne have also been instrumental for CH as both of them are among tries while second row Sajith Saranga too had a fine game against his former club before being substituted with an apparent ankle injury.
The Maitland Crescent Club’s 27-24 win over Navy meant they remain in fifth place; just two points behind third placed Army.
CR thump Police
CR and FC finally ended their four-game losing streak with a huge 53-13 win over Police Sports Club, but despite the victory the Red Shirts will remain in the bottom half of the table.
Wing three quarter Kavindu Perera touched down twice in that game which is a very good sign for the Longden Place Club because the Sri Lanka 7’s star is one player who could change their fortunes come the second round.
It was going to be a tough season for Police and they are really struggling at the moment. The Cops could only salvage one draw in the first round finishing off at rock bottom.
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