By Harsha Amarasinghe
Centre Danushka Ranjan bagged a brace as Kandy Sports Club completed the Inter-Club double when they defeated Navy Sports Club in the Clifford Cup Knockout Rugby Tournament final by 21 points (3-tries, 2-penalties) -7 (1-try, 1-conversion) at Longden Place on Sunday (25).
A host of superstars from Kandy were expected to run away with the game, but Navy head coach Mothilal Jayasekara had organized his side so well that made Kandy backs look ineffective. Despite an early try from Ranjan, Navy kept themselves in the game, but only until the game changing move made by his opposite number Sean Wijesinghe.
Full back Nigel Ratwatte who has been their regular full-back for most of the season was substituted mid-way through the second half paving the way for Thilina Wijesinghe to enter fray. Wijesinghe's entry had a huge impact on the game. Many would have expected to see Nigel staying on the pitch with Fazil Marija being most likely to come off, but Sean Wijesinghe thought otherwise and his decision was justified by Thilina. Kandy backs needed space on the flanks to work with and with long highballs from Wijesinghe putting pressure on the likes of Thilina Weerasinghe and Buddhima Piyaratne, it just made it too easy for Kandy.
With Wijesinghe's arrival Kandy dominated the game scoring as many as 13 points including a couple of tries. Marija playing his final fifteens game was put under pressure by Navy fly-half Mohamed Abzal who intercepted the ball off the former Kandy captain before diving over to bring them back to the game cutting the deficit down to just one point in the 41st minute after Kandy had taken a half-time lead of 8-0.
However, Marija left his best for the last in setting up a spectacular try through a mesmerizing cross-field kick to flanker Shehan Pathirana who touched down near the corner flag in the 68th minute which gave them a 21-7 lead. However, many felt that Kandy's second try which was once again scored by Ranjan putting the finishing touches to a fine three quarter move, was the real knockout punch.
Navy players probably let down the their team plan making too many passing errors. In games like this, it's all about executing your plan and when you don't take your chances against the champions, they make you pay for it.