A Tale Of The Expected-School Rugby Week 4 Review

You don’t go to an ammunition shop expecting to buy sweets. You don’t go to Hong Kong not expecting to see expatriates. You don’t drive on the road not expecting to stop at a red light unless you are playing a video game. The same vibe was conveyed by this week’s School Rugby action.

Barring the blockbuster clash between Trinity and Isipathana, where predicting the winner was like predicting the outcome of a toss of a coin, the others meet-ups all went true to form. Even the match that had lot of headlines for the close proximity of its eventual by-product, Royal vs St.Joseph’s, wasn’t too fond of sliding away from the norm. Josephians gave their heart and soul and as with the uncalled for trajectory they are back to square one.

Admittedly they played much better during the Saints match against St.Peter’s for 70 minutes and if not for the brain freeze in the next 10 minutes could have called it a day on the 13 year domicile in finishing in the successful side of this fixture. In that match their defence was diminutive compared to last week’s sleepiness. The long and consistent periods of pressure at the Royal line was undone by laggardness whenever the ball came to their half and however shoestring that maybe each time Royal made sure the scoreboard doesn’t remain idle. In the end, it cost the Joes.

As the assistant coach T. Bohoran deciphers it’s the inexperience in the bench that is causing the dilemma in choosing between keeping the tired legs on the field or running the risk of replacing them in the second half. They couldn’t be motioned for lack of courage and in reality they should have won all three previous matches, but when the dust settles what matters are the results. The date against Kingswood will be a good hurdle to start with because if they don’t produce a result with Trinity to come a week after, the run-in with the fellow relegation-schemers could be rocky at best.

Royal meanwhile plotted a grand escape and the defence looked see-saw most of the times. Both teams didn’t understand the physics of the wind at Longden place and the minority in the ground gained from kicks waved in acceptance of this fact. One thing that would please them is that they continue to win after being outplayed for long stretches in this match. The injury to captain and play-maker Arshad Jamaldeen reminded of the Bradby second leg last year where after his limping off, Royal’s remote turned mute.

They can rest some players during the St.Anthony’s game considering the dreadful season the Katugastota lads have had and ensure the camp is in full health for the moment of truth against St.Peter’s on June 9th.

The range of kicks on Sunday during the Trinity vs Isipathana game educated what purposeful hoofs can do and the expected cagey-affair was on offer. Isipathana were miles the better side in the first half, but their avarice towards penalties meant the advantage wasn’t properly utilized. The tackling and retaining the ball tactics Nilfer Ibrahim and Neil Foote instilled to the boys during the team chat at the break worked wonders and Trinity’s performance was top notch. They cramped Isipathana for room, the tackling which was faulty in the first half was flawless and the mauls were formed to great effect to take the ball forward after the initial runs. In short, they returned to their roots which wasn’t the case against St.Peter’s the week before.

Isipathana would be smarting from this defeat which spoils their ‘loss’ column and although Hirantha Perera’s compass was working perfectly, it was felt that they should have at least scored one try in the first 40 minutes. Coming back against a rejuvenated Trinity side is always easier said than done and so it proved. Havelock lads can locate some lost confidence immediately for they face D.S Senanayake this week.

D.S could not get a foothold against Petes in the most lop-sided match of the season so far and will have to turn on the screws when they run into St.Joseph’s and Kingswood if they plan a longer stay at the top. Petes continue to cause havoc and Dulaj Perera in the absence of Danushka Ranjan has accustomed to the captaincy role like Al Gore did to democracy.

They should be vary of upcoming Science fixture though as the Mount Lavinia crew were unstoppable in the second half against St.Anthony’s. Coach Mothilal Jayathilake has stressed that survival is their target, but they are licensed giant-killers. Petes were on a head of steam last year too before crumbling on the face of an onslaught by ‘Lions’, so they wouldn’t want any repeats.

Considering the crest of the wave Vidyartha find themselves in, they were expected to beat cross-town rivals Kingswood and duly did. It wasn’t a cake walk and a try in the dying seconds was what it took, but they continue to please eyes this time. After being promoted, they have been admirable in every way and the measure of their standing can be gauged this week against Trinity. A win could propel them to the top four and win or not so far it’s been remarkable.

Vidyartha loss withstanding, Kingswood still demonstrated that loss of some feathers won’t make them stop flying completely and St. Joseph’s is a litmus test for them to take care of with a win enough to create some daylight between them and the bottom half-pack.

However, dramatically close the matches have been, last week was a tale of the ‘expected’. With the season in full flow, it won’t be far for the ‘Expect the Unexpected’ to be granted though.

Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi

The Island Link-A Tale Of The Expected-School Rugby Week 4 Review

Royal Show Fortitude To Prevent Joe’s Bliss

There’s something about the defending champions that clocks in and canvasses attention. That is however the chore they find themselves in, they show bottle and simply find a way to win.

St.Joseph’s College paralysed their opponents for large chunks of time but on the grounds of a dramatic last gasp try by prop Eroshan De Alwis, Royal College won their Singer inter school under-20 Division I-Group A match 37-34 yesterday at CR&FC grounds, Longden Place.

Rehan Thiyagaraja scored what the whole crowd thought were the defining try at 76 minutes and his conversion-timely one at that considering his radar was awry all evening-meant Joes had their noses infront 34-32 going into the final stretch. That moment would have beyond a shadow of a doubt made his scrapbook if not for the final act of courage by Royal which released them from jail.
Sachin Vihanga railroaded and gained close to 20 minutes and from the offload Wasim Bawa drew ever so nearer. But it was left to Eroshan De Alwis to finish the customary refusal to give up by barging over on the right corner.

Royal were made to look ordinary by the heavy Josephian pack and their cause was not made elementary as their captain and playmaker Arshad Jamaldeen had leave the field due to an injury. That was after he put Royal into an early lead on short notice with a penalty. Joes hit back after continuous carousing in the opponents half when captain Yohan Keyser located a way through to hand his side the lead.

But it was short lived as Alwis-who had a cracker of a game depositing four try’s his account and more importantly to the side-grabbed the lead back two minutes later which Jamaldeen converted. Keyser again played his bulging role to perfection by ramming hard to the Royal wall and breaching it thus making the advantage seem like a pendulum.

Goshen Jackson made next Joes attack to come to fruition when touched down with 18 minutes gone. Trailing by 10-15, Alwis had no intention to let Joes take the game away as his try levelled the score adding more fuel to a frenetic first half. The pyro had just begun though as Dinesh De Silva ripped past three defenders in a storming run just after the restart to regain the lead and just when everyone was relaxed expecting the short whistle Rimze Jamaldeen cruised pass the middle to score under the posts and Damien Ratwattle restored parity to go into the half time all to play for at 22-22.

The physicality of the contest had examples to show as referee brandished yellow cards for both Vishmitha Pieris and Nimshan Jayawardena for high tackles in the first half. Second half started with Josephians camping in the Royal half for nearly 20 minutes and it threatened to be all in vain because of desperate and last ditch tackling from Royal but Keyser again proved to be Joes saviour as he scored to allowing the team of some respite despite possession. Thiyagaraja were off target again which had a huge bearing in the final analysis.

Till this time Joes forwards dominated the game with aplomb but the introduction of Bawa-who was making his first appearance of the season-and Vihanga made a massive difference as the strength and muscle they brought directed altered the play in the way of Royal.

Still Thiyagaraja’s try had the winner written all over it but the unbeaten streak of Royal stretches to 17 league games. Royal were hit hard in this game and there will be bruises to nurse but more than that they would savour the best remedy that came in the form of the result in this topsy-turvy struggle.

The Island Link- Royal Show Fortitude To Prevent Joe’s Bliss

Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi

 

Defiant Royal Leave Science Castle Unscathed

Royal College after a gallant display against Science College recorded a 32-17 triumph to keep their unblemished record intact in a Singer inter-schools under-20 league Division I-Group A rugby match played at Science grounds, Mount Lavinia yesterday.

Royalists, who arrived at Mount Lavinia with two wins on the pocket, knew their battering ram of forwards had to be on the ballgame and the lustiness of them ensured Science couldn’t locate their mojo in the evening. Apart from intermittent sparks, this wasn’t the usual Science outfit that has come across recently and the when the pressure got more and more exerted they backpedalled to a string of unforced errors.

But the day started on the right foot for the hosts who made inroads into the Royal territory immediately after the whistle of senior referee Dilroy Fernando. It paid rich dividends on short notice as Prince Chamara deposited a 20 metre routine kick only four minutes gone to land Science an early lead.

From then on Royal quickly dried up and began penetrating the opposition’s territory. An erratic up and under at nine minutes was picked up by Royal winger Nimshan Jayawardena close to the halfway and he covered lot of ground before exchanging passes in harmony with Rimze Jamaldeen before bundling down near the corner flag. Arshad Jamaldeen radar wasn’t good enough for the conversion and the match had to wait for another seven minutes before its next phase of stunts.

Richard Dharmapala was the entertainer this time as he saw that the Royal fullback was out of position and continued his run escaping three defenders in the process covering 30 metres to touch down under the posts. Chamara had no problem extending the lead to 10-5 but the pivotal moment which seemed to turn the tide came 20 minutes gone when Science hooker failed in his linear duties which handed the ball back to Royal and more importantly a reprieve they craved for.
This became costly when Rimze Jamaldeen pulled the strings again by instigating a fast break and passing to Ijaaz Bohoran take back the lead. Jamaldeen was up to the mark and teams left for the breather with Royal having their noses infront at 12-10.

After the resumption Science was presented with a window of opportunity 43 minutes gone but a knock on near the Royal try line thwarted the chance and the spell of thrust came to no avail. Then Royal center Damien Ratwatte exploited the width of the field tremendously by carving open the defence and Rimze Jamaldeen again finished off the move to move ahead to 17-10 lead.

Ten minutes later, flyhalf Jamaldeen put over a penalty after Science was penalized for handling on the ruck after a familiar Royal maul. The domino effect of Science’s desperation reached boiling point when one of the players was yellow carded for a late tackle. Slippery hands contributed to another turn over at the half way line and again after a rolling maul the vacant spaces in the wide areas was exposed as Bohoran planted another try to make it 25-10.

Science had to score to keep the match alive and they duly did by returning back to their roots when captain Kanchana Lakshitha caught an overhead and ran with ball half of the length of the field to take game to a nervous final 10 minutes.

But the time ticked off without much flourish and captain Jamldeen left it late to include his name to the try scorers list as he ripped past a curtain of defenders after Lahiru Pavithra had done the initial bit to finish off a satisfactory evening infront of a passionate and hostile crowd.

Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi

United Can’t Ignore Noisy Neighbours’ Half Risen ‘Blue Moon’ Now

If The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’ ramped up the atmosphere, with Liam Gallagher at the stands ‘Wonderwall’ provided the perfect entourage. Etihad stadium or for the older generation’s sake ‘Eastlands’ resembled a party mood and as the night vamoosed and morning dawned upon, the labourers sweeping away the trash could give a whirl about what had happened last night.

No, the title race is not over but you can promptly feel like the decisive page of the book has been turned. Relegation threatened QPR with City’s former boss Mark Hughes in charge would love to rain on the parade but it just seems the D-Day has just passed. 8 points in the lead with six rounds to go, United was expected to coast to the title and still they stumbled. And badly at that too.

This was the second time Manchester City did the double over United in 163 derbies and that stat itself is even to uncork what has been a one-sided cross-town rivalry thus far. Call them mercenaries whatever you want, the comeback by City shows the squad values the ‘citizenship’ they got.
Sir Alex Ferguson was so riled up by the end of a horrible night for him, but he didn’t do any favours through factors within his reach so much so that it could be argued he brought this upon himself. Playing a defensive formation is nothing to write home about and it has been adopted by many managers who have scripted legendary victories. Ferguson lost his cool midway through the match and if the masses expected a different response from his Italian counterpart Roberto Mancini countering the Scot, they were subjected to the next level of mind games.

It’s no hyperbole. On the night, Ferguson lost the tactical battle, mind games and most critically the composure. Mancini was so quick to point out its still advantage United but you knew there was irony in that feedback.

If City do go on to win the Premiership it must boil Ferguson from inside to know that the one side he has always had the number of in his storied 25 year career at Old Trafford has finally come back to haunt him. Manchester United had the title on the bank deposited and somehow they contrived to lose the account number. He missed one of the most fundamentally etched in stone axioms on last Monday.

He misread Mancini’s mind. And that’s not as easy as one would suspect. There’s no excuse to misapprehend an Italian’s mind in football field. Even on a must win, Mancini would go for the safety first approach, to defend well and score and resume the timetable. And City did exactly that. Arsenal, Swansea, Sunderland all took the game to City and were rewarded for their excursions.

It’s a pattern City have had the whole season. It’s the Italian formula if you will. Let City get into the game of their own pace and you are literally writing your own death sentence. Considering the pedigree of the man, Sir Alex is invulnerable to lose all his lessons and this was demonstrated by the players who prodded the middle with numbers leaving no holes to be punctured. That’s where Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy’s optimum performances of capital value in the flanks came into the fore.

Along with Yaya Toure, two wide men strangled United at every turn and were cut above the opponents at every turn. The match could have easily petered out to a draw vindicating Ferguson’s low-calorie approach but the flow of the game was altered according to the wishes of City by Clichy and Zabaleta who cut in from the flanks. This was made even more important as United didn’t let any crosses into the box either as they closed down aerial threats with almost spooky precision.

The nerves that were burgeoning finally blew up when Vincent Kompany bulleted the header into the net and Danny Welbeck, Antonio Valencia or Ashley Young, Ferguson threw onto the field you knew the bus was already ten miles away from where he was.
After the destruction at Old Trafford in October, United faithful might have thought their sins were all taken away but this defeat is much more passive than that. This was the decider and they fumbled.

City meanwhile has been the best of the league by some distance. On merit they should have sealed the title by now. United can still ambush their way back to the 20th Championship but a City win would only increase what is becoming the most competitively beautiful title’s credentials.
You don’t win a Premiership just because of money. 38 games later whoever is at the top had earned it. Whether it’s United or City is a redundant question.