One had to come to grief in their expedition to stay unbeaten and defending champions Royal College again portrayed their ability to step up to the plate when the stakes are high to paralyse a deadly on the counterattack St.Peter’s College outfit 25-21 to climb to the top of the league at Royal Complex, Colombo yesterday.
This wasn’t recommended for heart patients and let alone them even normal witnesses of one of the best school rugby classics in recent times found it hard to run the clock with constant visits to the watches a lasting feature as the score remained undisturbed since the 51 minute at 25-21.
It was the movie flick everybody expected with Royal relying on their familiar mauls and possession based grinding to great effect while Petes on the loose meant scoring was a principle of certainty. But Royal made sure the times which Peterites held the ball was minimal at best and it had a massive bearing on who’s letters were screamed at the end by the supporters.
Royal started the match which had an asterisk on everyone’s agenda by giving an early sign as to what was their menu of the day. Lahiru Pavithra rammed hard at Petes defence to shake it and Wasim Bawa put the finishing touches to land the lead. Rimze Jamaldeen fluffed the conversion but Royal continued to press forward with venom.
Then 8 minutes later referee Dilroy Fernando caught a peterite offside and Jamaldeen eased a 30 metre penalty to lengthen the lead to 8-0. Ravishan Dassanayake showed up and unders was his tactic of the day and it seemed to have rattled the petes who were flimsy on the high ball at times. Suddenly the tide changed dramatically as St.Peter’s found space to work with and the fast legs were of a different class.
Dilanka Perera’s swift pass to Dulaj Perera worked like a charm. With the form he’s in, Perera missing a kick at the uprights is an alien concept and St.Peter’s were back in it at 8-7. Then Royal worked overtime at the Pete’s line again and while the unrelenting visitors held on for nearly 20 phases the pass to that set Damien Ratwatte on the free at left was always going to increase the scores. Jamaldeen aimed right this time to let Royal infront 15-7 but within minutes it was back to hugging distance.
Banuka Peiris lost his marker expertly to run towards acres of space to land a scintillating try but Chathuranga Mendis minutes later was shown the yellow card by referee Fernando for repeated infringements on the ruck. From the line out Royal raised ahead as Bawa’s thrust was again too hot handle. Petes made a final attempt to wrestle the lead but a booming clearance from the dead by Ratwatte sent Royal in the lead 20-14 to the half time.
The resume was bit scratchy with both teams hovering around the other with no real collision but with 45 minutes gone a handling error near the line handed the ball to Royal and vice captain Eroshan De Alwis scored to read the scoreboard at 25-14.
The customary hit back from St.Peter’s resumed duties and Dilanka Perera scored a try under the post but that was to be final scoring of the day. From then on both sides contrived to forget bare essentials at inappropriate times and chances went begging. Royal took the way of eating a burger; slow, methodical and knowing too well a fast approach will only yield humiliation from the on lookers. On this instance a raucous packed house.
St.Peter’s made some crucial mistakes when they had windows to break the barrier. The sub plot before the match was the availability of the two captains Arshad Jamaldeen and Dhanushka Ranjan with coaches playing mind games. At the end visibly not 100% percent fit Jamaldeen played the full game and Ranjan never appeared apart from leading his side out.
Jamaldeen presence may had a lift on the Royal side as he is a vital component and they would be all too happy to see their league streak hit 20 when the sun set at Royal Complex.
Pix By Kamal Wanniarachchi