Can Navy hold their own on foreign turf?

By Aubrey Kuruppu

Over the last ten to fifteen years, Kandy SC and CR & FC have been the teams to beat in local rugby. Barring the odd aberration, the Nittawela Club has been crashing their way through-like an elephant on the rampage.

Kandy SC will be seen in action on their home turf today

Not any longer. The emergence of Navy, with its ability to inveigle quality players from other clubs, has seen a strong, determined challenge being mounted against the champions. In this context, today's Kandy-Navy game has all the ingredients of a block buster, a no-holds barred game which should serve up a dish fit for the connoisseur.

Kandy are, and have been, top of the pops simply because they have few chinks in their armour. The forwards fight it out fiercely and ferociously, with Sean Wijesinghe, Sajith Saranga and Senaka Bandara shooting the way.

The back division, consisting as it does of enough and more national players, is a real strike force. The sight of their three quarters sweeping ahead at top speed and honing in on the goal-line is a joy to behold. Jayasinghe's try-swing ratio may have come down, but he remains a very real threat and is much feared. Liyanage, Vithanage, Weeraratne and Ellepola are all dashers and like to go at full spell.
But undoubtedly, the jewel of the Kandyan crown is fly half Fazil Marija. Laid low for almost all the first round games, Marija, with his speed off the mark, his eye of the gaps and his inborn ability to change speed, is a quality player.

Navy doesn't have the big names their opponents possess, but coach Ronnie Ibrahim has been able to turn things round for them. He seems to emphasise the virtues of 15 man rugby. Fly half Dev Anand, Centre Lakshan, scrum-half Pushpa Kumara, Winger Chula Susantha, Lock Malwana and number eight Namal Rajapaksa are their more prominent players.

Navy, as they proved in their initial joust with Kandy this season, has it in them to derail the Kandyan express, They fought it out superbly and came off with a one point win. But Welisara and Nittawela are as different as chalk and cheese. Kandy SC, in addition to their playing skills, draws strength and sustenance from their vociferous, partisan, even frenzied supporters.

Last year, players from the teams got embroiled in an ugly confrontation and a bout of fisticuffs - one hopes there won't be a repeat and that the game will be the winner. Harry Mason of Singapore will referee this all important clash. Mr. Hemaka Amarasuriya, former Chairman of Singer Sri Lanka, will be the chief guest.

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Can Navy hold their own on foreign turf?


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