By Harsha Amarasinghe
Scrum half Mithun Hapugoda rose to the big occasion once again as the former Mahanama College half back played a stellar role in leading Havelock Sports Club to what turned out to be their first Clifford Cup triumph in nearly three decades when they beat Air Force Sports Club by 37 points (four tries, four conversions and three penalties) to 21 points (there tries and two conversions) in the final played at the Racecourse Grounds in Reid Avenue yesterday (24).
The former Sri Lanka Sevens Captain made a fine break just three minutes into the kick-off before marching onto the try line to get the Havies off to a cracking start with Riza Muabarak slotting in the extras to take an early lead.
The Havies though added two more tries in the first half through prop Zayan Sabar and in-form wing three quarter Chamara Dabare were only able to take a seven-point advantage at the interval as Air Force SC struck back with a penalty try and a scintillating try from wing three quarter Ishara Madushan who went under the to leave it 21-14.
Havelock SC number eight Lasindu Ishan made the second half his own with a dominant display capping off his performance with a try on the hour mark following a couple of hand-offs.
The Park Club smartly opted to go for points whenever they were awarded a penalty from a kickable distance and full back Riza Mubarak made sure they gained maximum advantage slotting in three penalties.
Air Force SC Thilina Bandara gave the Airmen glimpse of hopes with a try but Havelock SC played their hearts out in the dying minutes to ensure they sealed the title.
Havelock SC must be commended for their performance as nobody would have given them a chance to finish second in the league and to clinch the Clifford Cup at the start of the season after almost half of their side left the club for CH and FC.
Full credit to Sanath Martis and his coaching staff not just for what they have achieved as a club, but also for rejuvenating the careers of players such as Mithun Hapugoda, Chamara Dabare and Sandun Herath whose careers looked dead and buried coming into this season.
Even the younger generation of Lasindu Ishan, Dinuk Amarasinghe, Azmir Fajudeen, the Sabar brothers have all lifted their game to another level and the most deserving team emerged as the champions.