Oakley of Singapore to ‘blow’ at CR-Kandy clash

By Aubrey Kuruppu
Mathew Oakley of Singapore will blow at the crucial Kandy SC vs CR rugby encounter at Nittawela today. Oakley has officiated in Sri Lanka before when he refereed the China vs Sri Lanka 2002 World Cup qualifier at Longden Place which Sri Lanka won 9-7.

Today the destiny of the 2005 Caltex Inter Club League tournament will be known. In the fray are the champions if the past several years (Kandy SC) and the solitary Colombo Club that has had the brazen cheek to challenge and even overcome them (CR and FC).

Never has a rugby game aroused so much interest. On the streets, clubs and beer parlours the talk these days have been on the Kandy-CR encounter. Even the death of Kadirgamar has taken a temporary back seat.

When they met at Longden Place, CR forced their Kandyan counterparts into meek submission and surrender. But that was another day, another place. The CR was then playing superb, cohesive, dominating rugby. Not so now.
One man does not make a team. But ever since the departure Down under of centre Rajith Jayasundera a spanner has been thrown in the works.

The fluency, rhythm and smooth functioning of the back division has been thrown into disarray. His replacement has, quite simply, not been in the same street and, in consequence, the forwards have had to work extra hard. The return of Jayasundera will be a source of comfort and strength and CR supporters.Kandy SC had a similar problem but has seemingly come out of the mire.

Their back division, comprising as it does solely of Sri Lankan national players, is the envy of most clubs. They developed stammers and stutters among the forwards. Once again, the temporary liberation of last year’s national team captain, Pradeep Basnayake, gave rise to confusion and a certain lack of thrust and finesse in the pack. Matters were compounded by the fact that Asoka Jayasena, too, had called it a day. Thus, all of a sudden, Kandy SC was deprived of the services of both lock forwards. Moreover, they were both players of immense skill and experience.

Happily, Basnayake made a come back last weekend and significantly the hill country club had a big win over the Navy. The almost sane unstuck against a surprisingly rampart Army side. Had they lost then, they would certainly have kissed their chances of annexing the league title goodbye. Kandy SC has to back the CR and also to dump a few tries (goals preferably) if they are to come into the reckoning. What ever happens, this is one grudge battle that no rugby fan (whether based in Kandy or Colombo) would like to miss.
The home team, enjoying the advantage of playing on familiar terrain, will have the narrowest of advantages.

The role of the respective coaches will also be significant. CR is coached by an Australian and Kandy by a New Zealander. So it becomes a battle within a battle. (The wallaby won the opening round, will it be the turn of the All Black next?)

CR has some exemplary players in skipper Pavithra Fernando, the fast emerging lineout specialist Ashan Karthelis, Anuranga Walpola, Savantha de Saram and the ever reliable Dhanushka Pushpakumara. Whatever the outcome, the game will be worth going a long way to see.


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