A miracle happened at Welisara yesterday. In a proverbial David versus Goliath battle Navy defeated defending champions Kandy by 12 points (4 penalties) to 11 (one try and two penalties) in a literally nail biting Caltex League second round match.
When the final whistle blew, it was as though Navy had won the World Cup. Players were doing cartwheels, high fives and bear hugging each other in what is arguably the shock league cup victory of this decade. None was more jubilant than Commodore Nanayakkara who incidentally was the captain of the sailors the last time they tasted victory over Kandy which was way back in 1989 in a Clifford Cup semi final.
|Navy’s Number ‘8’ Namal Rajapaksa about to pass following a line break.
But yesterday belonged to Navy’s starting 15 who to a man gave 110 percent to the cause, which was to defeat the champs. The Rajapaksa brothers namely Skipper and open side flanker Yoshitha and Number 8 Namal held the sailors pack together. They not only matched their opponents ‘eight’ but on many occasions out played them.
Sri Lanka and Kandy stand off Fazil Marija who has orchestrated many of his sides victories this season, was a marked man. Navy’s cover distance was nothing short of brilliant for the majority of the game which was the main reason why Kandy’s famed backline could touch down only once.
This match had everything including a change of referee. The game swung to and fro like an out of control parachutist. The sailors had a slightly better share of the possession, but the set pieces were shared.
After their stunning victory over CR and FC last week Navy seemed to have a sense of commitment and belief which was lacking earlier on in the season. However, the opening sign was not good when wing three quarter Nuwan Hettiarachchi kicked astray a penalty early in the first half. A couple of drop goals attempts were also well short of their mark.
In just the 14th minute, appointed referee Nizam Jamaldeen had to leave the field after injuring his knee on some part of uneven ground. Touch judge D. Nimal had to take over with his place on the line being taken by Kevin Lappen.
Following the rather unusual interruption Navy squandered a golden opportunity to take the lead when after over five phases of play they dropped the ball just short of the touch line.
Hettiarachchi made up for his earlier lapse with two kicks over the cross bars. One of the few flowing moves by Kandy in the first half saw former Kingswoodian hooker Aravinda Udangamuwa touching down. Scrum half Saliya Kumara who had earlier missed a penalty, also missed what in the end proved to be a crucial conversion.
Navy extended their six points to five lead which they had at half time to nine points when substitute centre Dev Anand put over a penalty.
Kandy came right back with two penalty conversions by fullback Radhika Hettiarachchi which silenced the near 2000 spectators who were present.
Then came the moment of truth – Navy were awarded a penalty with just about six minutes remaining for the final whistle. Amidst pin drop silence, Anand took more time than he usually does and made sure of the conversion. That conversion seemed to take the fight out of Kandy and it was Navy who were in their opponents ten when the game ended.
CH through by a whisker
At Ratmalana; CH and FC withstood a late rally by Air Force to triumph by 24 points (two goals and two tries) to 22 (two goals, one try and one penalty) in their Caltex League Second Round match.
The lads from Maitland Crescent led by 19 points to 10 at half time.
Referee; Pradeep Fernando.