By Harsha Amarasinghe
It was always going to be a battle of the backs because there was never a competition between the two packs. This proved to be the case yesterday as the St. Joseph’s College forwards were left to rue numerous set-piece errors which saw Royal College securing an 18 points (1 goal, 1 try, 2 penalties) to 13 (1 goal, 2 penalties) victory to take a massive step towards what could possibly be their third Inter-School League Rugby title in four years.
The Havelock Park was well and truly packed for a potential title decider, and Royal who have been demolishing teams in the second-half, were working like dogs to hold on to their five-point lead when the rain started pouring in the dying minutes of the game, just like that washing the Joes' title hopes away.
Having taken a half-time lead of 10-07, the Reid Avenue boys crossed the whitewash just a couple of minutes into the resumption when flanker Ifham Fareed dived over to score their second try following a strong rolling maul which gave them a 15-07 lead as full-back Dulan Gunawardane failed with the conversion.
The Royal place-kicker who slotted in six conversions against the Thomians in the previous game dropped five points on the park with a missed penalty in the 52nd minute while Joes skipper Sameesha Virangana booted over two penalties at either side of it bringing down the deficit to just two points (15-13) going into the final ten minutes of the game before Gunawardane was able to restore five-point lead courtesy of a 68th minute penalty.
The Joes will be utterly disappointed with the result given the sort of start they had, having touched down in the very first minutes of the game when wing three quarter Tharindu Maduranga dazzled through to score a cracking try as he put finishing touches to a devastating three-quarter move which reminded the brand of rugby Isipathana College used to play under Nilfer Ibrahim (now St. Joseph’s head coach) during the days of Kushan Indunil, Sumudu Rankothge and Rehan Silva.
Royal though were very disciplined and stuck to their game plan controlling the game through the forwards, and their makeshift hooker Himantha Hirushan out of all the players, was able to bring them back to the game in the 16th minute with a try off a scrum after a Gunawardane penalty had cut the deficit to 5-3 in the tenth minute.
With this win Royal are now firm favourites to claim the title for the second successive year and Joes would want one of the other teams to upset Royal, if they are to return to the title race which looks very unlikely at the moment.