By Ravi Nagahawatte
Kandy Sports Club might now think that they have unearthed the lion in them, but Police Sports Club showed these visitors to Colombo that their minds can be easily taken off the game. This they did at Police Park last Saturday by enticing them into fisticuffs. Referee Aruna Rankothge used the yellow card on six occasions and four of them were shown to Kandy SC players.
The visiting Kandy SC team found their vision of the game blurred each time the cops trapped them by making them react to distractions. The red, blue and white jerseyed rugby players controlled the game well, but not their bulging egos. The Policemen knew early in the game that Fazil Marija would be unstoppable and played rough-up rugby.
Marija was a class act and exuded confidence throughout the 53 minutes he wore the Kandy SC jersey. He also displayed a calm mentality and avoided playing a part in these unwanted incidences. He second try in the first half underscored the fact that rugby is not only played using brawn, but with brains too. When he ran through almost half the length of the ground for his second try he showed that his eyes were scanning the entire breadth and width of the pitch. He was conscious of all the obstacles, scattered on his path in human form, during the two touch downs he made in the first half. He had the eyes of a hawk, the speed of a cheetah and the guts of a burglar as he stole the shows away from the police players.
Kandy SC players Heshan Kalhara, Buwaneka Udangamuwa, Thilina Wijesinghe and ex-Trinity College player Damith Dissanayake were punished for committing yellow card offenses. For a moment an appreciative Saturday rugby crowd was scratching their heads to fathom why the members of a team that was scoring tries at regular intervals strayed away from this all important first round inter-club league rugby tournament match.
Police were a disappointment and the main culprit was Sharo Fernando who was sin binned twice which amounted to a red card. What should be underscored here is that the Police is a department that enforces law and order in the country and any sportsman or sportswoman representing them in any sport should live up this image. Any player drafted into the Police only to play rugby should know to conduct himself in keeping with the image of this department.
Referee Aruna Rankothge should analyze his role in the game and check for errors. He didn’t hesitate to use the yellow and red card in his possession. But did it work in his attempts to control the players? This writer feels the answer is no. He even warned the police bench when a member of the coaching team was spotted interrupting the flow of the game. A bold decision like this augurs well for the future of all referees. This is because there was a time when a certain forces team had their way in domestic rugby giving scant respect to the laws and regulation governing the sport.
Rugby is a discipline where camaraderie should be witnessed both on and off the field. There are some players who still conduct themselves in keeping with the traditions of the game. A game should finish in a friendly manner where all infamous incidents during an eighty-minute game are forgotten. Both the players from Kandy SC and Police SC should learn this aspect of the rugby if they are to set an example to the public that the spirit of rugby should shine eternally like a star in the distant sky.