By Harsha Amarasinghe
Tarinda Ratwatte who has been the saviour of CR and FC all season along, missed a last-minute penalty which could have handed them a crucial victory as the Red Shirts were held to a 24 (four tries and two conversions) – 24 (three tries, three conversions and one penalty) draw by Army Sports Club in their Inter-Club League Rugby Tournament fixture played at Ratmalana today (21).
Army SC led 14-12 at the breather.
CR and FC who at one stage struggled to get any control of the game at 12-24, fought their way back to the game in the last 20 minutes or so mainly due to few very good substations by Head Coach Nilfer Ibrahim.
CR talisman Ratwatte was not having a great day at fly half and Ibrahim opted to send out the much experienced five-eighth Chanaka Chandimal pushing Ratwatte into centre position which really helped them create more opportunities.
The introduction of Rahul de Silva who replaced half back Harith Bandara too proved to be a masterstroke.
Ratwatte though still could have sealed the deal in the last minute after CR and FC had turned tables in the latter stages of the game through tries from flanker Wajid Fawmy and second half substitute Dulanjana Wijesinghe which had levelled the scores at 24-24 when the Longden Place club was awarded a penalty in the very last minute.
A difficult kick it was, but CR would have hoped their star player to get them over the line, only to see him kicking it wide of the target.
Army SC should still be given a lot of credit for what they achieved against one of the pre-season title contenders and also for the attitude they showed right throughout the game.
At no stage they appeared to be settling into a draw as even in the dying moments they went all out for victory which could have actually hurt them had Ratwatte put over the penalty.
However, it was an incredible improvement from the Soldiers having lost to Police SC last week.
CR and FC raced to a 12-0 lead within the first 20 minutes of the game with tries from number eight Omalka Gunaratne and scrum half Harith Bandara while Ratwatte booted over the conversion of the first try.
Army SC produced a deadly counterattack in the 28th minute getting their backline marching forward and wing three quarter Sudharama Dikkumbura put the finishing touches to a fine three quarter move to open their account while place-kicker Gayan Salinda added the extras.
The Soldiers led for the first time in the game just before half time when second row Thushara Adhikaram crossed the white-line to secure 14-12 half time lead.
Army SC full back Gayan Salinda who had an outstanding match with the boot extended their lead to 17-12 with a 41st minute penalty after which CR produced a stunning second half fight back only to be held in the final minutes of the game.