By Harsha Amarasinghe
As anticipated, Kandy Sports Club were made to work hard for a hugely significant victory over CH and FC on Saturday.
The reigning champions led 20-03 at the breather, but that by no means was a fair reflection on how the game was played. CH in fact played much better in that particular half, but some individual brilliance from Anuruddha Wilwara and Danushka Ranjan was just too much for the Maitland Crescent Club.
CH should have scored at least a couple of tries in the first half. Their forward pack which featured the likes of Henry Terrence, Sathya Ranatunga and Sajith Saranga put up a fighting display pushing over the defending champions in certain scrums despite losing their number eight Chathura Dilshan early to an injury. Their wing three-quarters however let them down fluffing the scoring opportunities.
CH should at least finish in the top three given the amount of money they spent this season. They look a decent side, but they desperately need a better fly-half than captain Rohitha Rajapaksa. The former Navy and Army man had a horrific evening, knocking the ball on several occasions and almost conceding a try due to a mistake. The expectations are high at CH although they are still to win a game in many years, and they must realise Rohitha Rajapaksa is a liability at fly-half. He was subbed off a few minutes into the start of second half which indicates coach Tulagase Tavita wasn’t quite impressed with his performance.
Namal Rajapaksa calls himself ‘only a CH fan,’ but it is crystal clear that he is the man who runs the show at Maitland Crescent. The former Sri Lanka captain has a tough decision to make. The Club is looking to bring back the glory days and have spent a lot of money on this project, but having Rohitha at fly-half makes it look as bad as the Hambantota Port.
Their second choice fly-half Shamri Burah is still very young at this level and seems to lack the creativity. The man they should have really gone after was Chanaka Chandimal. CH brought in almost half of the Navy squad, but they missed out on the Sailors' most creative player.
Havelock Sports Club on the other hand started off the season brightly with a fine 36-00 victory over Police Sports Club.
Dinuk Amarasinghe started the game taking the place of Hirantha Perera who was dropped to the bench by coach Sanath Martis and this was a clear indication that the former Royal College coach certainly prioritizes discipline over any other thing.
Hooker Prasath Madushanka was once again among the scorers along with prop Dushmantha Priyadarshana while Riza Mubarak made his presence felt with some penalties.
Police are in danger of finishing this season at rock bottom; they lost their best players Musheen Faleel and Mohamed Abzal to Navy Sports Club and their current squad looks quite inexperienced. Their senior players are aging, so much so that Havelock flanker Senal Deelaka was heard screaming at his fellow forwards to target the ‘naaki manussaya’ (probably to upset either Romesh Achirige or Chanaka Sooriyapperuma) during line-outs.
Air Force meanwhile missed out on a golden opportunity to pull off a huge upset in the opening weekend when they let slip a 06-03 half-time lead to eventually lose 21-09.
They play rugby the same way Chelsea play football. They would put over a penalty or two early and then make sure they don’t concede at all. They were doing fine, but CR and FC played to their potential in the second half to snatch a crucial win.
Army failed to repeat their heroics of last year at Welisara and began the tournament quite similarly to the last season when they were beaten by small margins.
On Sunday, Navy edged them out by 20 to 14 and in a very competitive game. This was of course a much needed win for Navy considering the fact that they lost most of their players to CH.
Hooker Dulanjana Wijesinghe who was outstanding last season got himself a try in the game and now he has to be the leader of that pack if they are to challenge for the title.
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