The first round of matches in the Dialog Rugby League has confirmed the obvious, that the champion Kandy SC team is the best in the business. They are not out on a limb as they were on previous occasions. But, as a whole, they have shown class and character. It looked a one-horse race for [...]


Unbeatable Kandy rides the rough seas

Dialog Rugby League

The first round of matches in the Dialog Rugby League has confirmed the obvious, that the champion Kandy SC team is the best in the business. They are not out on a limb as they were on previous occasions. But, as a whole, they have shown class and character.

It looked a one-horse race for six weeks, but the rugged Navy team showed that Kandy is not unbeatable. If they had held their nerve in those last couple of minutes, and if Weeratunga had not been caught napping in that line out, coach Mothilal Jayatilleka’s men could have taken the honours.

Kandy would be mindful of the fact that they have tough away games coming up. The Havies for sure, and two from among the Navy, CH and CR. Navy will have to brave the Nittawela hoodoo, while the others can be a tad optimistic as they will be the home teams.

Richard Dharmapala’s team was slow off the blocks, but upped the ante when it was needed. The fact that this was never a full side where everyone was available makes their success all the more worthwhile. At various times, the team has done without Gayan Weeraratne, Srinath Sooriyabandara, Anuruddha Wilwara – a highly talented troika.

The change of coach need not be a factor. Sean Wijesinghe fitted into the role seamlessly. Fazil Marija, with his far greater experience, should not have any issues, given his credentials. On top of that, Kandy is a settled side and has a well-chosen bench.

Number eight Buvaneka Udangamuwe was the pick of the players, and he probably has more ‘specials’ up his sleeve. Shehan Pathirana was effective and productive. Yaqoob Ali did the hard yards while Kalhara took the hits.

Danushka Ranjan is ‘Ranjan’, a player who can spark some brilliance at any moment. Wilwara, when he plays, guarantees explosive action, while Vishwamithra Jayasinghe has finished off well. Thilina Wijesinghe has made sure to have his kicking boots around. His sudden forays up field have seen the defence at sixes and sevens.

The Havies surprised rugby fans by making light of the mass exodus and remaining very competitive. Their success was generally built around the efforts of their impressive forwards – Dushmantha Priyadarshana, Liston Flatney, Lasindu Ishan and Azmir Fajudeen. The halves combination of Niroshan Fernando and Vimukthi Rahula has been effective without being terribly outstanding.

Dinuk Amerasinghe, who seems to be coming along nicely, forms a good centre pairing with Iranga Ariyapala. Reza Mubarak impressed with a solid performance as full back and kicker. Whether the Havies will end up as the bride or the brides-maid will depend on factors beyond their control.

Thilina Weerasinghe’s Navy team had a moderate run but has currently set tongues wagging by a superb performance against Kandy. The skipper’s poor kicking form, of late, has been a problem which the presence of Chatura Seneviratne has partially covered up.

Mohamed Absal, Mushin Faleel and the explosive Buddina Piyaratne have shown that their back division packs a punch. Forwards such as Charith Silva, Amith Gunasinghe, Kasun de Silva and Sithum Pieris play with a lot of commitment. Richie de Silva has been super-active as scrum half and also been very hands on.

A pre-season look at their squad suggested a top two finish. But the CR&FC has underperformed. This was evident in their final game against the Army – a team they should have beaten but ended up drawing.

Tarinda Ratwatte has piled on the points with his boot, but the club looks forward to more tries from him. His frequent change of position – from fly to centre and back again, could be a factor in this. Kavindu Perera and Reeza Rafaideen have been threatening and have looked the part. But they must deliver more when the crunch comes.

The CR pack was reliant on their power-house of a number eight Omalka Gunaratne. He was not at his best early on, but perked up towards the end.

Effervescent Rahul de Silva has proved a good investment. Kevin Dixon, forced into the last line of defence, produced some stunning bursts. He is inspirational. The CR has probably re-aligned their goal and would settle for a top far finish this is a bit sad for a club that is oozing with talent.

With one of the best three quarter lines going, the CH&FC’s performance has been infuriating. The way in which they were blitzed by the Army was disappointing for a club that has so many big names.

The Reuras, Henakankanamge and Herath are, on paper, a dazzling line up. Yet, their performance has been inadequate. Versatile fly half Samuel Maduwantha has been one of their saving graces, provided several thrilling moments. Skipper Yoshita Rajapaksa has not achieved tries in abundance, but he remains a tough and dangerous competitor. Nivanka Prasad gives it his all. Sudam Sooriyarachchi has excelled as scrum half and has provided many tires.

The Army had their moment of glory against the CH. In retrospect, they performed well to be level – pegging with the CR at the end. But they could have achieved more. The melt-down against the Police was a surprise.

Sugath Nanayakkara and Nalin Deshapriya have caught the eye with their committed performances. Ashan Bandara and Mohamed Rizvi have been equal to the task while, in the back division, Sameera Bulathsinhala was a revelation. The Army will show up well if they can recapture the fire of the CH games.

The Police were brilliant against the Army, and also against the Havies whom they led 26-7 at one stage. The latter loss, in particular, was galling.

The Police backs spear-headed by Sujan Kodituwakku and Sachith Silva produced some terribly exciting rugby at times. Fly half Yohan Pieris has been a stabilizing factor.

Experienced players such as the captain Udara Suriyapperuma, Shanaka Harischandra, Danushka Edirisuriya and Rasith Silva have put their bodies on the line and contributed to the limited success they enjoyed. A sprinted team, they should have had more success – they deserved it.

Try as they may, the Air Force seems incapable of moving away from the bottom spot. The saving grace is that although they lost seven games, they were not beaten by a mile. On the other hand, the points they accumulated, even in defeat, were quite impressive. A 25-31 defeat to the Havies and a 27-36 loss to CR indicate that the Airman had their moments.

Gayan Iddamalgoda was at the heart of their efforts. His play over all was exciting. Charith Seneviratne was another who impressed. Climbing off the bottom spot has proved difficult. But if they continue playing the way they have, they should receive a crumb or two of comfort.

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