By Harsha Amarasinghe
CR and FC paid a heavy prize for too much of chop and change as they slumped to their second defeat (10-24) at the hands of Army Sports Club in their Dialog Inter-Club League Rugby Tournament fixture worked off at Longden Place on Saturday (25).
CR and FC probably made more changes to their starting XV more than any other team, of course they had a few injury issues, but there have been doubts over whether or not they were playing their best XV.
Rehan Silva is one of the players who did not start many games for CR and FC this season despite representing the Sri Lanka Sevens Team in the recent past and it was revealed that he being a utility back was one of the reasons to send him out as an impact substitute in the second half.
Fereti Verebula handed Inter-Club debuts to both Chamod Fernando and Harith Bandara - two players who did immensely well for Isipathana College in the previous school season, but the Sri Lanka Under-20 duo doesn’t seem to be ready for club rugby.
Sashan Mohamed, though started on Saturday was also mostly used as a second half sub this season.
The Sri Lanka Sevens player was outstanding last season scoring crucial tries for them and his presence was probably one of the reasons why Anurada Herath left for CH and FC, but playing him only for 20 or 25 minutes, CR and FC are missing quite a bit.
CR and FC had dropped Omalka Gunarathne for their game against the CH and FC which was a huge decision because in Omalka CR have got one of the best number eights in the country and leaving him out for a player half of his size in such a crucial position was never going to be a smart idea.
The former Isipathana Captain is an absolute warrior on the field whether it’s fifteens or sevens rugby, but the management must make sure that he feels he is an important player in the squad.
On his return to the starting line-up, the third rower put up a great show against Army SC though his side ended up losing.
The Red Shirts’ pulled off a stunning comeback victory against Navy Sports Club a couple of weeks ago, but since then their form has been quite poor, but having stated that it takes nothing away from Army Sports Club who played superbly.
Fly half Ashan Bandara has been around for some years now, but this should go down as his best performance in a league game for the Soldiers. He scored three sensational tries to cause havoc at Longden Place.
On the other hand, Head Coach Nilfer Ibrahim must also be applauded for his work. CR and FC did score two tries, but Army SC made it extremely difficult for them.
The Soldiers were very well organized and they looked well prepared for that game.
Havelock vs CH and FC
Full back Rizah Mubarak proved to be the key man as Havelock SC secured a crucial 31-26 win over CH and FC in their match played at the Race Course Grounds in Reid Avenue on Friday (24).
The Havies had taken a big lead of 25-7 after 50 minutes, but within a matter of 20 minutes or so, they found themselves trailing by one point as CH and FC produced a great fight back.
Flanker Sasanka Ariyaratne who left CR and FC to join CH and FC is an underrated player, but gives his best every time he plays.
The third rower scored two tries, but late penalties from Mubarak meant they lost by five points (26-31).
This was also an important game for Dulaj Perera who appeared to have fallen down the pecking-order as Martis opted to go with Niroshan Fernando as fly half in the second and third weeks.
But maybe as a reaction to their defeat to Navy SC, Perera was brought into the starting line-up by the former Royal College Head Coach which proved to be a masterstroke as the former Peterite put up such an energetic display scoring twice.
Navy vs Police
Police SC showed some resilience against Navy SC, but hooker Dulanjana Wijesinghe delivered the knock-out punch in sealing a 31-24 victory at Welisara on Saturday (25).
Police SC were trailing 10-24 at half time, but a couple of yellow cards for Navy SC players made it slightly easy for Cops to get in few tries. It was all square 24-24 at one stage, but Wijesinghe’s try meant that Police crashed to their fourth straight defeat.
Kandy vs Air Force
At the Nittawela Stadium it was another routine win for Kandy SC who thrashed Air Force SC 55-13.
Air Force SC travelled to Kandy having defeated Police SC in the previous week, but the result was almost inevitable although Kandy SC were beaten in Ratmalana last year.
The defending champions have been so dominant at home and they only looked out of comfort zone only when they played CH and FC at the Race Course.
The Kandy SC side has already taken a considerable lead being the only unbeaten side, and as it stands, the Dialog Inter-Club League Rugby title is going nowhere.