Next week’s Cup championship games in schools’ Rugby, will bring down the curtain on the 2016 League title race, with the contest between S.Thomas’ and Isipathana billed to be a blockbuster.  The rest of the matches in the final week are Science-Royal, Trinity-St.Peters and Wesley-St.Anthony’s.  Though the Thomian-Isipathana fixture has not been played on a [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Thomian-Isipathana Clash of the Titans

Ends 2016 League Championship

Next week’s Cup championship games in schools’ Rugby, will bring down the curtain on the 2016 League title race, with the contest between S.Thomas’ and Isipathana billed to be a blockbuster.  The rest of the matches in the final week are Science-Royal, Trinity-St.Peters and Wesley-St.Anthony’s.  Though the Thomian-Isipathana fixture has not been played on a regular basis in the recent past, their meetings have produced sparkling Rugby, since their maiden fixture in the early 70’s. Both teams undoubtedly, are the best this season, possessing well balanced outfits. The forwards and the three-quarters have been equally brilliant for both S.Thomas’ and Isipathana.

Thomians will go all out to prevail over their opponents. They last tasted League title success way back in 2000 under Gavin Jayasekara. S.Thomas’ skipper Pandula Silva is a shrewd tactician, who leads the the Thomian ‘8’ from the front and gets the best out his team. The Blue-Black brigade possesses the heaviest set of forwards among schools, giving them the edge in the scrums and line-outs over their opponents, and will surely terrorise their counterparts. Among the forwards, Vice Captain Malinda Deshapriya, Sachitra Jayathilake, Shaniv Ahangama, Wayne Mackand and Christin Delilee have excelled in attack and in defence.

The Thomian three-quarter line is one of the best seen this season, after a long time. The backs posses genuine speed with winger Naveen Henakankanamge the cynosure of all eyes. Isipathana may have to work out a plan to stop him at all costs, as Henakankanamge is really dangerous with the ball in hand. ‘Pathana’ should also be mindful of Thomian inside center Ashwantha Herath. He is a tower of strength, in addition to being the number 1 place kicker for the side. Last week, against St.Peters, he was the chief architect of that resounding win. Herath is unstoppable and his opponents will have a hard time to thwart his moves.

The rest of the back-line in Shaneev Nanayakkara, Bumindra Dissanayake, Dion Dias and Mayon Jayawardena, are hardy runners who can pressure their opponents. In their first two games of the Cup championship, the Thomians beat St.Anthony’s 41-11 and St.Peters 36-13.
Isipathana on the other hand, know very well their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, in this crucial encounter. Their forwards will have to play a major role to secure the good ball for their nimble footed back-line to do the honours. The third row comprising Vageesha Weerasinghe, Devin Guneratne and Sashmitha Fernando, is the best this season, with fiery displays in the loose and quick to breakdown points.

They will go all-out to deprive the heavy Thomian ‘8’ of securing good ball. Skipper Kushan Indunil and deputy Sumudu Rankothge will spearhead their back division charge with speed and power. The ‘Green shirts’ meanwhile came out on top against Wesley 43-8 and Trinity 32-22 in their last two Cup championship games, in superb fashion.  The S.Thomas’-Isipathana game will provide the thrills of high octane rugby that will go down to the wire.  Royal College will have their work cut out for them against Science College, who will be more than a match. The Royal back division will be tested to its limits by their opponent’s hard running three-quarters.

The Royal ‘8’ will have the edge over their counterparts in the scrums. Nikhila Gunadeera, Royal skipper cum number 8, leads by example. Gunadheera, with the rest of his forwards in Ayesh Maduranga, Harith Lokugamagae, Nabil Mohammed, Pasindu Amerasinghe, Maleesh Madhumewan and third choice hooker Ebrahim Barrie, will torment Science with their trade mark rolling maul. The forwards need to make constructive use of their good ball, instead of running the ball with their backs, who have yet to play to their potential. Royal, so far in the Cup championship games, have made heavy weather of downing St.Peters 33-24 and St.Anthony’s 26-13.

Meanwhile, Science has the potential to turn the tables on their opponents. Their three-quarters are their biggest strength, who are capable of regularly punching holes in opponent’s defence. Skipper Nirosh Udayanga and his ‘partner in crime’ Deputy Thanuja Maduranga are the dangerous centers with their hard running. Tharindu Maduranga, Sanjula Rohan and Supun Dilshan too are penetrative runners in Science’s back division. The Science ‘8’, though mobile and quick to breakdown points, will have their hands full in countering Royal’s rolling maul. But their forwards in Daminda Lakshita, Ravindu Sankalpa, Charith Janitha, Janith Lakshan and Shifan Irshad will be equal to the task to provide much needed good ball for their three-quarters. Science, so far, have defeated Trinity 15-12 and Wesley 11-7 in their last two Cup championship games, which were close encounters.

The two teams that did not play to their true potential this season, Trinity and St.Peters will lock down at Pallekale next week. This is the islands third oldest inter-school Rugby game, commencing in 1933, after Trinity-Royal (1920) and Royal-St.Peters ( 1932). Trinity, with 11 coloursmen in their ranks, failed to impress this season. So far they have recorded their fourth straight loss in the League, losing to S.Thomas’, Royal, Science and Isipathana. Trinity’s forwards should have the edge over their rivals to win the scrums and line-outs. The Trinity ‘8’ have the mobility to be quick to breakdowns, to get the ball out for their threes. Skipper Rahul Karunathilake played a tremendous game in last week’s outing against Isipathana. He will be ably supported by the rest of the forwards in Shalindra Alahakoon, Nathan Chan, Avishka Priyankara, Shadie Deen, Anjana Bandara and Rukshan Dammapala.

Their backs, in Anuka Boyagoda, Sangasinghe, Geshan Pethiyagoda, Avishka Edirisinghe, Dulakshan Dange and Sanushka Abeywickrema are a set of hardy runners who will give the Peterite defence plenty to think about. For Trinity winning this game is very crucial.  On the other hand, St.Peters will have to come up with a different plan to ‘beard’ the ‘Lions’ in their own den. But the worrying factor still is their forwards. Though possessing weight, they lack mobility. Hence, their failure to win good ball for their three-quarters who are their strength. Number 8, Senura Premawardena plays tirelessly, but lacks support from the other forwards. The backs comprising of skipper Sandesh Jayawickrema, star player Diyath Fernando, Theekshana Dassanayake and link man Aveeshka Heenpella are second to none, with the ability to punch holes in the Trinity defence on a regular basis.

Lastly, the Wesley-St.Anthony’s clash. The ‘Double Blues’ led by prop Zayan Sabar, will go out favourites. Though Wesley failed to perform to their true potential this season, they field a well balanced outfit. Except their game against Isipathana, the rest were close encounters. Going down fighting to Trinity (5-7), Royal (14-17), S.Thomas’, under heavy downpour and wet underfoot conditions, (0-19), and Science (7-11).
Meanwhile, St.Anthony’s, though not playing to expectations this season, will offer stiff resistance to Wesley outfit.They are capable of giving a surprise in the final week of the Cup championships.

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