Top slots of both segments are open to guesswork, whilst unpleasant incidents distort the welfare and the spirit of the game.
After another week, Trinity and Royal will complete their matches. All other schools in the two groups have two more weeks left to play.
St Joseph’s, Trinity and Royal are eyeing the first two slots in group ‘A’. Trinity have to play wooden spoonists Kingswood in their final game, and would end with four wins from five games.
Royal have a tough call against St Joseph’s, who have another game left against the fighting St Anthony’s College Kandy. S. Thomas’ had close games with the three top contenders, and were perhaps a trifle unlucky to have been drawn into this group.
Segment ‘B’ is a three-cornered contest – a toss-up between unbeaten Isipathana, Wesley and Vidyartha. A key match in this segment will be the postponed game between Vidyartha and Isipathana. Isipathana with three wins, are virtually assured of a ride to the final. However, Vidyartha need to beat both Isipathana and Science to be in contention.
The week remembered Schools Rugby for the wrong reasons as the previous week. Top among them is the compromise of player safety, the application of the requirements of Head Injury Assessment (HIA) and return to play. The law states that a player who is concussed or suspected of concussion has to be recognised and removed. The HIA is for assessment and follow-up. The law on return to play and allowing a replacement is for matches approved explicitly by World Rugby.
Another concern is the absence of a Doctor who knows the rugby protocols – who can fulfil the requirement of the tournament rules.
The last concern is the crowd behaviour of a section of supporters after the Isipathana vs St. Peter’s match. First, it was accosting a match official and then a brawl among spectators.
Trinity vs St Joseph’s
The Blues sang till the mountains disappeared, beating Trinty in the Lion’s den at Pallakele. Full time scores were 20-15, but unfortunately, Joes could not get the bonus points, which would prove valuable if they were to lose one match. So how did they miss the bonus point? Lack of match planning or a wrong call?
The difference might have been much more favourable to the Joes if they did not make unforced errors, concede penalties and receive a yellow card at crucial times.
Trinity was less aggressive than in previous games and concentrated on keeping a tab on the prowling Naveen Marasinghe. The concentration let Joe’s three-quarters advance, but their mistakes stopped them from going over the line. While Marasinghe was a marked man, the Joes had a good flanker Sachintha Widyartha. In such a situation maybe Marasnghe could have stayed away from the breakdown and become a weapon and overlapped, joining the back division. Ample proof of his capabilities to burn the track was when scoring the first try, by running over twenty metres after receiving a kick while standing outside the breakdown. Reminiscent of his junior days of rugby playing in the back division.
Royal vs S. Thomas’
Royal stayed on course to beat S. Thomas’ 20-08 and retain the Michael Gunaratne Trophy. But once again, the focus seemed to be on the wrong reasons.
Why did it take time for the teams to get on the field after half-time? It was all about the substitution of a player. The law requires that a player be immediately and permanently removed from the playing area if concussed or suspected of having a concussion. To allow for a Head Injury Assessment is only for matches approved in advance by World Rugby.
When the Royal player was off the field for a head injury assessment, he did enter the play area after a few minutes. World Rugby player welfare guidelines are for a player suspected of a head injury not to play on that day. This action led to arguments and counter-arguments and claims this was a rolling substitution. The Match Commissioner also invoked the rolling substitution clause, which is not in the tournament manual. The rule to be followed should be the referee’s decision. There is no provision for the Match Commissioner to be involved in effecting or changing an on-field decision. The other area is the lack of a rugby-qualified match doctor. The emphasis on player welfare of World Rugby needs a revisit by the schools.
St. Peter’s vs Isipathana
Isipathana, who have been improving with every game, beat arch-rivals St Peter’s College 29-17 to maintain their unbeaten record after three matches. It was a morale booster for the young inexperienced side. Isipathana are the only unbeaten team in Division 1 Segment B.
The Green forwards did well to match the Peterites, while they held the rolling maul and effectively stifled St. Peter’s.
Peterites drew first blood after Isipathana were reduced to 14 when a Green player was spied for kicking and sent to the bin. Seizing the opportunity, they scored and converted to lead 7- 0.
Despite being down to 14, Isipathana got the better of the Peterites and scored an unconverted try (SPC 07 – IC 05). Though dominating possession, the Peterites could not show points for their effort. It was Isipathana who capitalised on Peterite lapses and went over to half time leading 12 (2T, 1C) to 07 (1T, 1C).
In the second half, the same Isipathana player was shown a yellow card for the second time, and the team was again reduced to 14. St. Peter’s scored again to tie the score 12-12.
The pendulum swung to and fro, but the Green machines had an opportunity with the kicked ahead ball. Unfortunately, the Peter’s defender made an error in judgment and positioning, hoping the ball would drop into the in-goal area. These are schoolboys and not professional players and the ball was short of the expectation.
From the 5-metre scrum, Isipathana’s backs played to go over in the left corner. (IC 17 – SPC 12). The award of a 5-meter scrum was what incensed a part of the crowd. The question is whether the ball was in and then made dead irrespective of where the player’s foot was. If the ball was inside the playing area, it was in regardless of where the foot was. Calling a difficult decision right as the Assistant Referee was there and in line closer to play than somebody 50m away.
The 14-man Isipathana was gifted another try when the Peterites couldn’t clear another five-metre scrum. (IC 22 – SPC 17).
Off a rolling maul, Isipathana scored again and at full time the score was Isipathana 29 (5T, 2C) – St. Peter’s 17 (3T, 1C)
Vidyartha vs Dharmaraja
Vidyartha defeated home-town rivals Dharmaraja 17-08 in their Dialog Schools Rugby League 2022 – Group 2A in Nittawela on Saturday the 16th. Compared to their previous performance, both teams played a dull game.
SACK vs Kingswood
St. Anthony’s collected nine tries to thrash Kingswood 57-07 in their Dialog Schools Rugby League 2022 encounter played in Nittawela on Sunday. SACK notched their first win while Kingswood remain winless after three games.
Wesley vs Science
Wesley after having lost against Isipathana, played to their potential and had a field day beating Science by 38 points to 10 on Saturday the 16th. The game was important to both teams if they hoped for a berth in the next round.
Wesley dominated early proceedings by continuously attacking the Science goal line and scoring first. (WC 05-00 SC). Continuing the pressure, Wesley scored again. (WC 10-00 SC)
Wesley scored twice more through converted tries, while Science managed a try, and half time scores were Wesley 24 (4T, 2C) – Science 05 (1T).
Science had a great start in the second half by scoring a try to reduce the lead (WC 24-10 SC). After that, it was Wesley that dominated the game. Wesley took off and extended their lead to 31-10 and consolidated their progress. They once again cleared the way to score, and the full-time scores were Wesley 38 (6T, 2C) – Science 10 (2T). They thus keep their chances open for the super round.
By Vimal Perera