Sport

Rugby: Havelocks-Navy: A rugby game that whets the appetite

13 January 2019 - 14   - 0

If rugby fans have tears to shed, they should do so for the Navy. Consider their predicament. 

Sunday's (13) opponents, Havelocks beat them 22-18 in the first round. In the clash of Titans, they were leading Kandy 20-17, only for a Thilina Wijesinghe penalty to make it 22-20 and save Kandy's bacon. 

They did it once more against the CH a few days back. 

This time, the margin was 31-28. So near and yet so far. 

When will Lady Luck smile on them? 

Barring something sensational, Kandy apart the Havies are the only team that has a realistic chance of filling the Dialog League Trophy. 

After losing to Kandy 21-31, Sanath Martis' men know that they cannot fall too far back. 

Sitting on the champions elbow as it were, the Havies live in hope that Kandy will slip on a banana skin and afford them an opportunity of beating them in the return at the Park. 

It may be a fond hope, but it is said that hope springs eternal in the human breast. 

Despite a poor record (they beat only the service teams in round one!), Navy has shown that they can lift their game when it matters most. 

Kandy's players will tell you that they went through hell before edging through to win. 

The Navy is not exactly overflowing with Sri Lanka stars. 

That is the preserve of clubs such as Kandy, the Havies and CR&FC. 

However, Coach Mohtilal Jayatilleka has made optimum use of the resources at his disposal. 

One of the aces in Jayatilleka's pack is winger Buddima Piyaratne. 

A delight to watch as he weaves in and out of the defence at speed, Piyaratne will be a marked man. 

That would mean that Mohamed Absal, Mushin Faleel, Harsha Maduranga et al will have more work to do. 

Link-man Richie Dharmapala is a thoughtful player, and a wily one too. 

With the drafting in of Chathura Seneviratne, the Navy has an additional kicking option. 

Charith Silva is one of Navy's tougher forwards. 

Others such as Kasun de Silva, Amith Gunasinghe, Supun Pieris, Adeesha Weeratunga and Janith Laksara will have to step up to the plate in this key encounter. 

Another loss would not matter to the Navy, but it would be very costly for the Park Club. 

Martis doesn't believe in hype. 

Nor does he set great store by bravado. 

He is more the cold, calculating type. 

In spite of losing key players in the exodus, Havelocks have done very well to be where they are. Players may come, and players may go. 

But Havelocks goes on forever! 

Havelocks' optimism is well-founded. Centre Dinuk Amerasinghe has made great strides and is in a position to use the experience gained from representing the national team. 

He forms a good centre combination with Iranga Ariyapala. 

Throw Chamara Dabare, Sandun Herath and probably, Sashan Mohamed into the mix, and Havelock's confidence in their back division is not unfounded. 

Having given a few games to Vimukthi Rahula, the Havies seem to have decided on Mithun Hapugoda for the number nine spot. 

Skipper Niroshan Fernando reads the game well and opens it out as he deems fit. 

The forwards have been at the heart of the Park Club's success. 

This is understandable as Dushmantha Priyadarshana, Liston Flatney, Lasindu Karunatilleka and Sharo Fernando are all committed to the success of the club. 

Youngster Azmir Fajudeen, a fire metre specialist, is an important asset. 

Full back Reza Mubarak has been competent in fulfilling his tasks; no fuss, no frills. 

If Navy skipper Thilina Weerasinghe's kicking is back on track, then Havies' advantage in this important aspect will be nullified.

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