|Royal No 8 Hasthika Bandaranaike putting the icing on the cake by planting their final try. (Pic Ranjith Perera)
By M. Shamil Amit
What a better prelude could one ask for before the one that counts the most in a week hence. Yesterday, Royal came up with a gusty performance to retain the custody of the Michael Gunaratne Trophy in its 48th year with a 22 points (2 goals a try and a penalty) to 5 points (a try) win over their traditional rivals S. Thomas’ at the Royal Sports Complex.
At half time the winners led at 10-5.
With the persistent showers experienced during the last two days, conditions underfoot were definitely not conducive for fast open rugby. This was very evident during the 70 odd minutes of play that was on exhibition. However in this game Royal had made one good change in their pattern of play. Unlike in their game against Trinity last week where they were over dependent on burly Bilal Hassan, they also ventured into test ing the skills of their three quarters which was refreshing and it also brought plus results. In another effective move Royal also had moved Hassan to number two from his customary No 8 position and this also had a good impact.Thomians on their part, tried to emulate Trinity by moving the ball down the line, but, once again it was not a day for open and fast rugby with a soft topped surface. The result was a mistake riddled seventy minutes of strangulation.
Royal opened scoring in the 7th minute with a fine side stepping try by centre Duminda Attygala who polished a lovely three-quarter move that began in the Thomian twenty two. Fullback Shailendra Chandrasegera added the extra points to give Royal a 7-0 lead.
Fifteen minutes later the Thomians came up with their answer through winger Sachit Kalupathirana working on the blind side. This effort went unconverted.
Just seconds before the breather Royal’s efforts off a foray of moves paid with an under the posts penalty which was converted by Chandrasegera. Royal then led at 10-5.
After the turn about, Bilal Hassan got into the act when he recreated last weeks’ rolling maul try to fall mid-right for an unconverted try. Then a few minutes before referee Dilroy Fernando blew the long whistle Royal scored once again this time through their No 8 Hastika Bandaranaike to which Chandrasegera added the two extra points to give Royal their final tally of twenty two points.