The league chase is on with the final battle at hand between Royal and Isipathana. Joes meet Wesley in the other match, which will only be of academic interest. The two teams at the receiving end are victims of their own folly.
The weekend result is reminiscent of how both losing teams played the game and were at the receiving end. I am not talking about the referees – who are often discussed on social media or quoted in the scriptures. Referees are a regular dish for many with a delivery tag from five-star to no-star hotels.
Both Wesley and St Joseph’s harvested what they sowed. Wesley always looked to be a do-good side, being nice to their opponents. They applied the same attitude of being good to your opponent against Royal, by helping a player back on to his feet, or a gentle tap on the head after a tackle, may be a show of sportsmanship.
Why do you tackle? To regain possession and move forward to score. Naturally, the player in possession of the ball must remember what is in store when he sees the opponent next time. For example, he must remember and wonder what he can get in the form of an aggressive tackle. Not a thought of a feeling on the head by a comely lass you saw as you entered the playing enclosure.
On the other hand, Royal showed controlled aggression throughout the season, and in this game. Trinity was another school that showed good rugby aggression but, at times, not controlled. The Bradby will be an exciting encounter.
In the Isipathana vs St Joesph’s match, Joes were seekers of the aggression of the Green Machine. As has been throughout the season, their style of play in meeting an aggressive opponent was to get carried away and be at the receiving end of penalties and yellow cards. The match against Pathana was a case in point as they lost two players early in the game. The clashing of their players and being taken on a stretcher is not the first time this season. It took them almost till the last fifteen minutes to realise that they matched the Green team as they went down with a three-point difference. With the two players taken off the field, the Pathana players laughed, giving a psychological kick to the Joes with a grin that read we have won. If you expected the Green team to be the nice guys, it would not have taken them to camp in the blue territory for a significant portion of time.
That is how two teams bowed out of the final round last week. The match between Royal and Pathana will be the one that will decide the league title. If Pathana plays wide and Royal is good, tacklers will keep the Green team in check. Despite Royal having good tacklers, Pathana has the edge over Royal in the back division. Pathana will move the ball all over and sometimes in circles.
On the other hand, if Royal play a tactical game and leave it to the forwards to do battle, they can creep through. The Green team are no novices at the breakdown, so the breakdown will be a decisive factor. With both teams being aggressive on the field, it is nerve-wracking and will see fans calling for blood. However, aggression by both teams will keep the game tidy and exciting. The referee, whoever it be, will have to have nerves of steel and control himself and shut off the shouting of fans who may be right or wrong. What matters is that the referee is confident he is right.
The first two matches of the super round are over. Royal defeated Wesley 21-16, while Isipathana defeated St. Joseph’s 16–13.
BOA Athukorale says: Royal maul, and if Pathana defends this successfully, they will be champs. Otherwise, Royal all the way.
Goal kicking: Take the 3s and build scoreboard pressure.
Physicality v Flair: Royal will bring the muscle and Pathana its flair on the counter. They can score from anywhere.
X-Factor and game breakers: Pathana has a clear advantage here, and it’s a no contest.
The referee: There will be key moments and no cards (hopefully). How the maul ‘uses it’ when stopped will significantly impact the outcome.
This should be a thrilling contest mastered by shrewd tacticians – Dushan Lewke for Royal and Saliya Kumara, who will provide the flair, for Isipathana. With a more significant leadership on the field and the return of the captain, the Green machine will be hard to beat.
Post-match crowd invasion, a rowdy part of the game, has to be stopped or at least curtailed for greater sanity and the spirit of the game.
I witnessed the Zahira vs Prince of Wales match played in Maradana last week. The Zahira ground is an open field with no barriers to stop fans from running to the playing area. However, ten minutes before the end, there were announcements on behalf of the Principal and the Rugby Advisory Committee requesting fans not to enter the playing enclosure. The fans respected the request and the rowdy part became nice.
By Vimal Perera