Isipathana College’s hunger to achieve supremacy in rugby was satisfied in the final week of the inter-school league rugby tournament when they overcame S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia 28-24 at Longden Place. With the win, Isipathana College were declared winners of the Cup Championship category in the inter-school under-20 League Rugby Tournament.
There was something about the Thomians when they warmed up for this match in a cool unhurried manner preferred over the more popular aggressive boot stamping, swearing and face slapping session. Their coaching team had known figures and was large enough to suggest that rugby at the school by the sea is serious ‘business’.
But still they lost. Isipathana, led by centre Kushan Indunil, adopted one strategy throughout the game which the Thomians possibly hated; play the game as fast as possible. Isipathana won this game for two main reasons. One was that they ran like gazelles. The other reason was that they were in total command of the scrum. Mind you this was despite the Thomian front row comprising a threesome who each weighed over 100 kilos.
Isipathana’s first half burst was too much for S. Thomas’. A try off a rolling maul by Vageesha Weerasinghe and a breathtaking try-scoring 70 metre run by winger Chamod Fernando spiced by two conversions and a penalty by full back Gayan Wickremesinghe put the Green Shirts 17-0 in the lead.
An Isipathana-S. Thomas’ game is a ‘cracker’ whenever the two sides are evenly matched. Both teams came to this crucial game not knowing what defeat is. Informed sources said that pavilion tickers had been sold out one hour before the game began. The crowd was vociferous, but sanity prevailed despite the fact that the Thomians took the fight up to their opponents in search of their first try. The blue-black jersey clad rugby players drove forward using their ‘eight’. Third row forward Sachitha Jayatilake did well to take the ball over the try line despite nursing a severe wrist injury. The Thomian number eight was a terror in the loose and was instrumental in initiating several moves by the forwards.
The Thomians found their way over the Isipathana try line once more in the first half when centre Dhanuja Wijeratne barged through after his side opted to run the ball during a penalty.
The game was played at a terrific pace and both sets of three quarters did well in close quarters when there was a need to engage in rucks. Isipathana seemed to have stretched their lead with a try late in the first half. But the referee disallowed the try scored by the Isipathana skipper Indunil and awarded a penalty instead. One possible explanation for this reversed decision is that an Isipathana player might have indicated the side would take a penalty kick, but another player thought otherwise and decided to run the ball later on. There were concerns about Isipathana not getting a try, but Wickremesinghe’s kick at goal coming good stretched the lead taken by the Havelock Town school by eight points. The scores read Isipathana 20 and S. Thomas’ 12 at this stage of the game as both teams went into half time.
The electrifying atmosphere that the game was played in never simmered down even for a moment. Both teams played their hearts out. Isipathana stretched their lead with a penalty by Wickremesinghe. But it was number eight Vageesha Weerasinghe who stole the show a little later when he ran almost 70 metres on the blind side to punch the third hole in the Thomian defence. Isipathana took a commanding 28-12 lead at this stage of the game. But all the good work done till then was somewhat lost due to two yellow cards the Green Shirts gave away due to unwanted play.
Playing with 13 men during the dying stages of the game didn’t help Ispathana. The Thomians hit back strongly with tries coming from Ashwantha Herath and winger H.K Naveen. But the Thomian comeback happened a little too late. Referee Irshad Carder was well in control of the game and the players.
Joes, Vidyartha earn ‘silverware’
St. Joseph’s College Maradana won the Plate Championship in the league tournament. At the time of writing, the verdict of the inquiry into the violence marred match the Josephians featured in against Dharmaraja was not known. Critics opine that Dharmaraja College should be punished the harshest way given that they took no responsibility to safeguard the visitors from Colombo. Zahira College emerged as runner-up after they cleared their last hurdle by beating Prince of Wales 23-5.
Vidyartha College Kandy won the Bowl Championship while Thurstan College finished as runners-up.