Isipathana ended their 6-year drought for the League title when they got the better of Royal by 21 points (2 tries, 1 conversion, 3 penalties) to 15 points (2 tries, 1 conversion, 1 penalty) to regain the Dialog League at Havelock Park yesterday (14). Isipathana also regained the Maj Milroy Fernando Trophy with this win, ending Royal’s record of three wins in a row till 2019.
At the short breather it was Royal who led 10/6.
The game was contested between the two top teams dishing out champagne rugby. Royal looked a yard faster in their approach early in the first half after settling down well. Isipathana took time but settled down later in the first half.
After the turn around Isipathana played cohesive rugby to pull the game in their favour. Usually a good line-out jumping outfit, Royal looked pathetic in their approach. They hardly got the throws straight. Wewala Panditha and Dodangoda spoilt all the hard work put in by Royal in the throw ins. For Royal their full back, Nabeel Yehya and scrum half Hasanka Higgoda played well
After some solid work by the Royal forwards Winger Pasindu Heshan broke through and drew first blood for Royal in the 11th minute. Full back Nabeel Yehya, who had a grand game, added the extras.
After missing a penalty, Rinesh Silva put over a superb 40-meter penalty for the Green Shirts to cut the deficit to 7 points.
Then came the turning point of the game when Abullah Yusuf of Royal was shown a red card for a high and dangerous tackle on an Isipathana player. This left Royal minus one player for the next 20 minutes, where they slowly started losing their grip on the game. Malith Methsara put over another penalty to take the short breather at 6/10 with a 4 points deficit.
After the turn around Isipathana played with lot of momentum. Malith Methsara put over another penalty to reduce the gap to a single point. Royal paid heavily for not kicking the ball to touch which allowed their opponents to attack and gain territory advantage. Isipathana scored their first try through their dashing centre – who is also a cricketer – Praveen Stephan, who dummied his way through. Malith Methsara added the extras to take the lead 16/10.
Royal never gave up and used their usual rolling maul to good effect when their hooker Danuja Samararatne scored. Nabeel Yehya missed the difficult conversion.
Isipathana put the icing on the cake through their last try by winger Praveen Stephan.
Both teams were punished for foul play with one yellow card each in the latter half.
The host team should take charge of crowd control in a better way, as the game was stopped for more than 10 minutes due to spectators encroaching the playing area.
Referee Ishanka Abeykoon
Isipathana also won the two junior games. Under-14 19/0 and Under-16 8/3.
By Special Correspondent