Sri Lanka moved a neck ahead in the Thailand leg of the Asian Sevens series. Having beaten Korea and placed 3rd they are now neck to neck in the overall third place as they lost to Korea in sudden death, during extra time in Malaysia. The tuskers are narrowly apart as we go into the [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Getting out of the third place shackle


Sri Lanka moved a neck ahead in the Thailand leg of the Asian Sevens series. Having beaten Korea and placed 3rd they are now neck to neck in the overall third place as they lost to Korea in sudden death, during extra time in Malaysia.

The tuskers are narrowly apart as we go into the next two rounds of the seven’s series. Sri Lanka now enters an important period for rugby in the Asian Sevens calendar. The toughest race on the card for the future will not be to be 3rd bit to be among the first.
I received a SMS which read “Sri Lanka Rugby is when we benchmark Japan. Does 50 points indicate our rugby program has regressed in the past 30 years since 1984”? 1984 was the inaugural year of the Hong Kong Sevens and Sri Lanka won the bowl. What really happened in the match against Japan? My perception was that the Tuskers were holding themselves back to make sure of a third place.

Sri Lanka was placed third in Asian Sevens Series in Thailand. - Pic courtesy SLRFU

That is what most rugby veterans thought and an insight from reliable sources close to the management confirmed the position. The right or wrong of the course followed can be spoken for and against but the 3rd placed returned sans the red carpet. The recognition on home soil is what is important psychologically as we attempt to be neck and neck for the first slot.

Since 1984 also played in this tournament for almost a decade thereafter. We also took part in the Asian Games of 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010 and in the Commonwealth games of 2006 and 2010. We saw some success winning the Singer Sri Lanka Sevens Plate in 2003, 2004 and 2005. That is what we have to sing for.

Being third is the best achievement for the Sri Lankan Sevens team in Asia. How would you relate the position of Sri Lanka winning 3rd place while losing to Japan and talk in terms of the progress of the game. It would probably be like comparing chalk and cheese. . “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland . The truth possibly is that we have been running as fast as we can to be yesterday while those who we challenge have run twice as fast to be ahead. Japan knows where they want to be and they have planned for it and that includes the inclusion of pacific islanders using the IRB eligibility criteria.
Japan will host the Rugby World Cup 2019. We should at least host one of the Asian Sevens Series. We have the infrastructure and the crowds will be better. The Lankans will have the home support that will be good for them. One thing that will be against us will be the price of accommodation. Got to work round it as the home advantage will always lift the team that now needs to be mentally tough.

The good thing was that Sri Lanka we were mentally tough was able to recover from the embarrassing defeat and wake up to beat Korea and win the 3rd place. If it was a willing surrender, we have to rethink on what we do. To be among the best you have to fight the best.
Sri Lanka lost the game with the kick off and the next two centre starts following Japan scoring. Unable to secure the ball off Japanese restarts there was only one way without possession. Just after Japan scored the first try we devoted time to ask the referee whether the ball had travelled ten meters. Would it not have been better to have taken the time of almost a minute for the conversion to regroup and think of getting that ball and keeping? In a culture where the questioning of the match official is thought more important from mini rugby to national rugby it is obvious that with the experience we will prefer to ask the referee than to get a word to the players on what next. This is something that we have to do will if we are to replace Japan or Hong Kong at the top for at least one match. The message should have been “boys if Japan can score once we can score twice.” But then to question the referee was more important: A waste of time as settling down to face the next kick off is what is important.

Now that we head the group we got to stay there in Mumbai and take it to Singapore. When we head the group we will be sure of the semi-final and we will meet either Hong Kong or Japan. If we don’t head the group the chances are that we will meet one of them possibly in the quarter-final.
There is no other way in the semi as the two are much ahead and the possibility of another being there is remote. But in our case we got to remember that Philippines, South Korea, China, Malaysia and Chinese Taipei are breathing down our neck.

While the men were getting ready to improve on the show at Kuala Lumpur the Women’s team “The Female Tuskers” was not going to be left behind. They raised their hands and wanted to be counted. In another first in the history of women’s rugby the Sri Lankan Girls won the Plate. It was indeed another pride of significance in the history of Sri Lanka Rugby. Especially as all the girls hail from the provinces. Most of the girls in women’s rugby were nurtured in the game of rugby at Sabaragamuwa and the forces have given them a life. Arjun Dharmadasa , BK Ramachnndra , Pryantha (Tiger ) Gunaratne , Beauty Wijeratne and K.S.P Karunaratne are those that pioneered rugby in the areas surrounding the Gem City and should be proud of the achievement. It is surprising that there is little of ladies rugby in the Central and Western Provinces where rugby has been more prominent. If the male elephant is a bull and a female elephant is a cow and if a magnificent elephant with a tusk is a tusker let us give credit to the ladies and call then “Female Tuskers.” More so ever the female tusker is a rarity and the girls deserve the sobriquet.

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

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