Isipathana unbeaten champions

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On Sunday, 14 August, in a complete turnaround of fortune, Isipathana became the master blaster of Dialog Schools Rugby, beating Royal 21 points to 15 at Havelock Park. A sea of heads in green, blue and yellow packed into Havelock Park like a can of sardine. Fortunately, neither COVID nor fuel quotas deterred the crowds that needed rugby action.

Unbeaten Isipathana regained the league title which they last won in 2016. The estimation of Isipathana in the first week of the schools’ season was they are just another ordinary side that may survive in the B segment of Division 1. However, with each game, the Green team built themselves into a formidable outfit that was good to win the League, beating Royal on the run and mind game. 

Defending champions Royal were looking to win the League for the fourth consecutive time. However, they had to return disappointed as they lost most lineouts and lost their way despite starting with a lead of 10 points to nil in the first fifteen minutes. The red card to a key forward followed by a yellow card to another, allowed Pathana to recover, and at lemons the score was 10 points to 6 in favour of Royal. Additionally, they lost the lineouts through throws that were not straight, or when it was, they knocked on in collecting a high throw to the number four jumper. Their inability to get turnover or being penalized at the breakdown added to their woes.

The early signs suggested the Greens had come to the park to free the shackles. However, Royal felt a psychological barrage and dropped the ball immediately after the kick. Pathana fans leapt for joy as the centre knifed through after picking the ball after a Royal knock-on, only to realize the referee had blown his whistle early.

The first few minutes saw a degree of aggression more apparent in the form of a nudge, a stare and sledging.

However, Royal recovered from the early shock and worked the ball wide. Philio Calyanaratne drew two defenders and passed for Winger Pasindu Heshan to plant a try. Nabeel Yahiya converted in the 11th minute and Royal led 7-0. In the 15th minute, Yahiya had no difficulty kicking a penalty earned after the Green backs were offside, to take a 10-0 lead early in the game.

In the 27th minute, Rinesh de Silva kicked a penalty when Royal was spotted offside. However, just past the kick at goal Royal failed to put a penalty kick to touch. The Pathana player who collected kicked ahead and was charged late and recklessly by a Royal player. Royal second rower Abdulla Yuusuf saw red for dangerous play. Malith Botheju kicked the penalty, and the scores stood RC 10 IC 6 at halftime

Malith Botheju kicked a penalty in the 42nd minute as Royal came up too early at a line out. With a one-point difference the Greens turned on the heat, having put points on the board.

In the 51st minute, the referee spotted Hasnaka Higgoda of Royal dishing out a high tackle. As a result of a late charge, Isipathana’s Niranjana Jayaweera joined Higgoda in the cooler.

Green backs did well to play wide, and in the 58th minute, a lovely show and go by Naveen Kanishka saw him slice through the Royal defense to score under the post. Botheju converted and Pathana took the lead for the first time 16-10.

Royal forwards sprayed their way by mauling, and Dhanuja Samaratne scored, but Yahiya failed to convert. IC 16 – RC 15 in the 62nd minute.

As the crowds panicked, Pathana took control, and off a three-quarter move, Botheju showed a dummy and drew his opponent, allowing winger Stephan Jayakanth to score. The conversion was unsuccessful, but Isipathana took the school’s rugby league crown.

St. Joseph’s vs Wesley

On Monday (15), St Josephs huffed and puffed their way needing a win and a bonus point to end as runner-up in the League.

Wesley drew first blood through the boot of Jayawardena. After around 20 minutes of scrappy rugby, the Joes forwards settled to score through Jehan Athukorala crashing over. Dilhara Subash added 2 points and the scores were. (SJC 07-03 WC).

A penalty by Jayawardena and a try by Akeesh Jayamanna helped Wesley to take the lead at half time: St. Joseph’s 07 (1T 1C) trailed Wesley 11 (1T 2P).

With no head clashes but attracting yellow cards, the Joes seemed to realize what was needed to take them to second place in the League were tries, and Hooker Chamodh Seneviratne, Naveen Marasinghe and Sachinthana Waidyanatha obliged to secure a win and a bonus point.

Marasinghe, the highest try scorer, ended in the bin for a misplaced high tackle, but returned to stamp his ability to score and make the Joes proud.

St. Joseph’s College 26 (4T 3C) rolled over Wesley College 11 (1T 2P) at the final whistle.

Schools Knockout

The knock out stage will commence on 27 August. However, Ceylon Today snooped around the schools and picked that Royal and Trinity would not be playing in the knock out.

The first eight Division 1 Segment teams will be selected for the President’s Trophy of 2022. The selection is according to clause 21 of the Tournament Manual.

However, with Royal and Trinity opting out, there is no guideline on who will replace the two teams. That is for the tournament committee to decide. The selection is difficult as there is no ranking after the first four teams, as the others did not play the second round of matches.

Five teams, Isipathana, St. Josephs, Wesley, Vidyartha and Science College, are at practice in readiness for the Knock Out. The sixth team from the first eight teams is St. Peters Colombo.

Ceylon Today understands there is a decision to be taken on St. Peter’s, and the process will follow precedents as practised in the case of eligibility issues. The decision will be by the relevant Directors of the Ministry of Education as required. In the event St. Peter’s is allowed to play, the Complainant Dharmaraja College Kandy, can petition the courts.

An interesting observation is that as the Ministry decides, any action will have to be against the Ministry. The situation is peculiar as a school will have to petition against its Ministry. However, the move is a remote possibility, and the decision probably will remain final.

By Vimal Perera