The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Navy-Havies clash could be a whopper

Rugby Talk

Havelocks in action. Pic by Ranjith Perera

Protests have taken centre stage than rugby itself during the last two weeks. The previous week Upcountry Lions protested against the decisions of the referees of their matches against the Police and the Navy. This week it is the Army who have not only protested but also threatened to withdraw from the tournament complaining against the referee of their match against the Upcountry Lions.

As the tournament gets to the last stages of the first round and the challenge is to be the first among three clubs who remain unbeaten. They are Kandy, Havelock’s, and Navy. Today Havelock’s will take on Navy and one will take a tumble unless they end up in a draw.  The fight for the third place seems to be a close among four clubs, namely: Army, Upcountry Lions, Police and CR with a chance.
The Police with three wins so far seem to have the edge to be among those fighting for the fourth slot.   Navy, Kandy and Havelock’s who are among the first three have to play each other while Kandy and Havelock’s have one more  match each against CR and Upcountry Lions.

CR who have been among the first two for many years are fighting to be in contention for the cup though it seems they are destined to fall. This I believe is a new experience for the Red Shirts and one from which they have to learn provided they become a learning or organization and not a complaining one. They have to get to the root of the problem and not keep blaming the wind for the falling leaves.
There will be a huge pressure this week on players as well as match officials to perform while the most beating will be taken by the officials.  The match between Havelock’s and Navy played at Havelock Park today will be one that will test all involved including the spectators. Dev Anand of the Navy; a good distributor of the ball and a very reliable place kicker can make the difference with his ability to put over a drop goal by using the pocket effectively.

That extra point can give be the gap between a winner and loser. Speaking to Ronnie Ibrahim the Navy coach he said that what was needed are the points and Dev brings them home. Ronnie went on to say that he hopes to get the maximum of the Fijian stars and will be backed by the locals. He believes that is where his strength is to make the winning difference.

Two players who will make use of the well distributed ball will be Fijian Centre Ratu Taniela Rawata and Fijian sevens skipper Stefano Cakau. Ratu Taniela is a good reader of the game evading contact, exploiting and or creating the holes with quick feet and offloading for maximum advantage. Stefano as a true sevens star follows in support and is always at hand to finish the moves. They are rarely isolated with the Navy players following them and show their thirst for the ball.

Havelock’s appears to depend and fashion most of the attacks around their two expatriate players who take the brunt of attack and defense. Number eight Samoan Aittui Nissan is a powerful player who can get over the gain line while centre Tongan Hakalo Viliami is a powerhouse but a doubtful starter for today’s game. If Villiami does not play, his place will be taken by Sopo Pulliami.

Havelock’s have a tendency to get into a sort of hibernation mode after the first 20 minutes. This has had them requiring the burning of more fat to ensure a win. This is something that they will not be able to defend with Navy who has shown the commitment to win improving after each game. Thusitha Peries, the coach of Havelock’s expects a fair contest on the field and hopes to win and proceed to annex the league title. He too expects to get the best from his Samoan number eight from behind the base while the centre will be a point round which the local players will rally.

Head-to-head the back division seems tilted towards Navy with two performing Fiji centers and Dev-the man who can make the difference. The third row of Navy comprising of the Hassan and Rajapaksa brothers will have to do lot of hard work and seem to be able to get the better of the Havelock’s back row which has a workhorse number eight in Nissan. Navy has the edge on weight while Havelock’s have the speed which will make the forwards game a tough one.  The Havelock’s third row will have to restrict space for Dev and deny him his attempts for drop goals which could change the fortunes of a game. Both teams are in with an unbeaten record and have to curtail the unforced errors as well as the penalty count to be the team that will win. So far both teams have not faced a real threat and are now facing each other. This will be a game that can raise the dust on the newly laid turf as they clash where thunder and sparks may be the result.

Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited Referees Evaluator IRB

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