The Schools’ Rugby curtain raiser was on Thursday (23 June); the teams were St. Joseph’s and Kingwood. There were more matches on Friday and Saturday. Spectators, primarily parents and some old boys, were in the stands.
Trinity, Royal and St. Peter’s had close games, but came through unscathed. St. Joseph’s showed what they are capable of with a run-away victory. Isipathana, though winning, did not display the quality of a champion team. Wesley looked good despite the lack of challenge in their match. S. Thomas’ are unlucky to draw Trinity and St. Joseph’s in their first two matches. Though losing, St Anthonys Kandy and Dharmaraja Kandy will be a threat to the other teams.
The following two weeks will be anxious for all schools because of the games ahead, but there is a certain amount of uncertainty in travel as transport folds up with petrol and diesel distribution being on hold. Costs of transport from Kandy to Colombo and vice versa are a significant issue as there are five teams from Kandy in the A-segment. The schools’ section, however, are confident about continuing the tournament. Travelling to Colombo or Kandy would cost over Rs 100,000 per match.
The effect of the pandemic was that for two years there was no rugby. However, there is also an impact on players who graduated from the lower division without match experience.
Veteran coach Sanath Martis believes that the first week allowed them to assess the areas needing development as they returned to the rugby field after two years. He went on to say that some are happy, while others are critical.
More important will be the coaches addressing the aggressive approach to the game and where to draw the line to be within the law. For example, whether you are aggressive in the clean-out, hand off when pushing your way through, approach the breakdown from all sides, and take off players who may not be bound. In the first week, it was a yellow card or a penalty, but may be escalated to red if the approach continues. All matches saw players subjected to yellow cards.
St. Joseph’s (34 – 6T 2C) vs Kingswood (3 – 1P)
Joes found it much easy as they beat a young Kingswood side by 34 points to 3. St Joseph’s showed an excellent platform to launch attacks involving the backs and forwards.
The home team made inroads into the visiting Kingswood team goal line, scoring three times in the first twenty-five minutes of play and led 19 (3T 2C) 3 (1P) at half time.
Still, Joe’s conceded two yellow cards and a spate of warnings for dissent, and showed a lack of discipline, much needed if the talented team are to take a shot at the top slot. The yellow cards forced SJC to a shell early in the second half.
They were reduced to 13 men as Flanker Sachinthana Vidana and flyhalf Dilhara Subash were both sent to the bin on the stroke of halftime.
Kingswood’s Dissanayake saw yellow for a high tackle and opened the flood gates. Joe’s forwards and backs combined with YC returnee Sachinthana Vidana to score.
SJC Marasinghe will be a player teams will have to watch, as he can inspire a rampage significantly closer to the goal line. However, Marasinghe must distinguish between a dangerous hand-off and a fend-off as he pushes his opponents away. Several injuries in the second half depleted the Kingswood strength.
Full time score: St. Joseph’s (34 – 6T 2C) – Kingswood (3 -1P)
Trinity vs S. Thomas’
The much-awaited match for the Canon De Saram Trophy played in Pallekelle had interesting moments, but was less exciting than expected. Trinity soared high at times only to be brought down by a determined Thomian side.
S. Thomas’ opened scoring through a 3rd minute penalty, and halftime scores were TCK 17 (1G 2T) STC 6 (2 P).
The TCK scrum-half who steadied the game was at the receiving end of a yellow card for a dangerous charge. Shaveen Premaratne was lucky to come back and play a pivotal role in chasing around STC. They were threatening to take the game for themselves.
The game then swung, and STC looked dominant in attack until Premaratne was back at the base and chased the Thomians several times. STC have to ask themselves about their mistakes being penalized when they were in an attacking position.
TCK sealed off the game as Kovida Wickramasinghe added another three points, and at the full-time whistle, it was TCK 20 (2T 2C 2P) – STC 13 (1T 1C 2P).
Both sides could not get their line out throw straight. The game had more line-outs than scrums, as many penalties resulted in more kicks. Trinity will need to tidy their approach to the breakdown and have a better pattern of play as they progress. Trinity will need to review the course from all sides. It is good to see TCK being aggressive in their approach, but they must draw the line and be within the law. Taking players who are not bound and falling over at rucks must be avoided. The alternative will be an increase in penalties. S Thomas, who seems better in the process, must review being sanctioned at crucial times.
Royal vs St. Anthonys Kandy (SACK)
Much fancied Royal College showed inexperience while fighting hard to defeat SACK, who was no pushover. The inexperienced players seemed confused and isolated at the breakdown. Nevertheless, they survived the SACK challenge. Royal got off to a good start scoring minutes after kick-off. Royal scored again almost immediately. Both tries went unconverted as Royal led 10-0.
SACK made inroads into Royal space, but had to contend with two players in the bin for foul play. Royal, too, was reduced with one player in the cooler for a dangerous tackle.
SACK scored to reduce the lead at halftime. Royal 10 (2T) led St. Anthony’s 5 (1T).
The second half saw the game meandering away, swinging from side to side as fatigue and inexperience caught on.
Later in the second half, Royal increased the lead to 17-3 through a converted try. Two tries from rolling mauls followed the score as the tail of the maul Navin Perera wagged and wormed his way and scored twice. Converting one of the tries, Royal went ahead 22-05.
SACK No.8 Amarasinghe dived over at the near touchline after some inspiring running play giving the fans something to be proud of, and the conversion signaled the end of the game.
Wesley vs Vidyartha
Wesley College scored a resounding 38 points (6T, 4C) to 7 (1T, 1C) win over Vidyartha in their Dialog Schools Rugby League opener worked off at Longden Place. The first half was a time of glory for Wesley, and the scores at halftime: Wesley 28 (4T, 4C) – Vidyartha (00).
Errors and indiscipline highlighted the second half with repeated infringements at the breakdown and high tackles, resulting in yellow cards shown to two Wesley and two Vidyartha players.
Wesley played well in the first half and showed signs of being a serious contender for the 2002 league title. However, Wesley must review the second-half performance as the yellow cards affected their play. At the same time, Vidyartha held on despite being shown two cards. Wesley has a team that performed well and played to a pattern using the backs and forwards that seem to have lost their way in the second half.
Isipathana vs Science College
Isipthana had to fight hard to beat Science College by 18 points (3T, 1P) to 9 (3P). Both teams failed to keep possession and maintain continuity to add pressure and score. However, the inexperience of not playing matches and including young players affected both sides. Pathana was true to their experience running the ball, while the forwards and backs combined to cross the goal line.
Both teams need to understand that they have to play a more constructive game in this segment than unstructured rugby, that looked more fit for a junior tournament. Science was guilty of being repeatedly offside at the breakdown and one of their players was shown a yellow card.
St. Peter’s vs Dharmaraja
St. Peter’s came with a history of winning the Dialog Schools Rugby 7s Western Province competition. Meanwhile, Dharmaraja came in with an experienced XV including some promising youngsters.
St. Peter’s scored their first try within the first 10 minutes, which was converted, to take an early lead of 7-0. Then, dominating through forwards possession and execution, the rolling maul helped add to the score that extended the lead to 12-0.
However, the Rajan forwards countered through phases of continued play to score and narrow the lead. 12-5
St. Peter’s were reduced to 14 through a sin bin which helped Rajans take advantage to score and narrow the lead to 12 (2T I C) – 10 (2T) at lemons.
If the Rajans turnaround shocked the Peter’s players, veteran Martis’ directions at the break saw the backs opening up space with some quick passes and score (SPC 17-12 DRCK). The rejuvenated Petes scored again, forcing the Rajans into making errors. The Peterites capitalized on the mistakes as they moved the ball wide. They crossed the line and got the bonus try. The Petes had to defend to hold on but scored the fifth try.
St. Peter’s College 27 (5T 1C) beat Dharmaraja College 12 (2T 1C)
‘A’ segment matches this week
01 July – St. Anthony’s vs Trinity (Nittawela 4.15 p.m.)
01 July – Wesley vs Isipathana (Sugathadasa Stadium)
02 July – Dharmaraja vs Science (Nittawela 4.15 p.m.)
02 July – St. Joseph’s vs S. Thomas’ (Havelock Park 4.15 p.m.)
03 July – Vidyartha vs St. Peter’s (Nittawela 4.15 p.m.)
By Vimal Perera