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Captains Ovin Askey (Royal), Henakankanamage Naveen (S.Thomas’), Sumudu Rankothge (Isipathana), Azhar Irfan (Zahira) and Danister Goonatilake (Wesley) and Nathan Yee (Trinity) pose with the Singer League Championship Trophy. (Pix by Kasun Fernando)

The interest shown for the inter-school league rugby tournament is building like the temperature of a patient. Thirteen teams are vying for the coveted trophy and what has made the spectators have an irresistible urge to witness matches is the fact that there has been no clear cut favourite so far in the tournament. One may argue that Trinity College Kandy should be termed the best team out there, but this is a season which has seen the underdog hit back to silence the critics.

The ‘Lions’ led by hooker Nathan Yee have been a destructive force and reigned supreme in round one defeating fancied teams like S.Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia and Wesley College. All these matches have provided the typical build up for the Bradby where they are expected to scrum down with traditional rivals Royal on May 20 in Kandy. The roaring Trinitians have seen players like Dilushka Dange, Woran Weerakoon, Sakalasuriya, Lashan Wijesuriya, Anuka Boyagoda, Shaveen Ekanayake and Aveesha Priyankara throw their weight behind them during all their games. The battle to remain on top in Division 2 A gets hotter now with games against team like St. Joseph’s, Isipathana and Royal on the cards.

The next best team to talk about is Isipathana College. The Green Shirts began as a total new side due to the exit of 13 players from last season. But coach Lasintha de Costa has done well to mould the newcomers to the side and make them a dangerous outfit. In a way it looks a dream come true when one considers that Isipathana lost a game and still finished on top after six weeks of grueling rugby. Two of their best games this season were witnessed against Royal and St. Joseph’s.

A team that merits mention is Wesley College which not only created one of the upsets this season but also qualified for the second round. The Campbell Park lads picked up their pieces after a morale denting defeat against Trinity to beat the fancied Thomians in their Oliver Goonatilake Trophy encounter. The team is coached by New Zealander Paul Toia and is packed with many promising players, twins Avantha and Avishka Lee standing out for them thus far this season. At the time of writing the lads wearing the double blue jersey were training hard for their second round fixture against St. Joseph’s College.
Bradby boys Royal have continued to live dangerously and pulled off thrillers against St. Joseph’s Dharmaraja and St. Peter’s. Ovin Askey leads the Reid Avenue boys who have showed in no uncertain terms that they know the art of winning games where the going is tough. Hamza Reeza and Sabith Feroze have played outstanding games to keep the blue and gold flag flying this season.

The Thomians have not lived up to expectations despite having an Impressive team on paper. Skipper Henakankanamage Naveen has led the way with his superb runs and leadership, but the team is yet to gel and produce that match winning combination. Coach Tulagaese Tavita has worked hard with the boys, but it’s high time the side settled down to play that traditional ‘slap bang’ style of rugby and move up the points table. Skipper Naveen and Christian De Lile have been outstanding so far this season. The Thomians play against arch-rivals Royal for the Michael Guneratne Trophy this Saturday.

St. Joseph’s saw lady lucky smile on them when they produced a smashing win against their sister school St. Peter’s in their much awaited Fr. Basil Weeratunga Shield encounter. Coached by Nilfer Ibrahim and led Vinol Fernando they produced that much needed win beating St. Peter’s at Bambalapitiya. Gemunu Chetiya and Gihan Perera along with skipper Fernando have stood out for them this season.

Zahira College is another team which has taken the best use of being promoted to Division 1. They have done well and have given a torrid to some of the fancied teams contesting the tournament. The players to watch this season have been Yuzraan Lantra and Zahid Sinhawansa.

As the tournament now begins to reach a climax mental toughness will count a lot in deciding what team will fall and what team will lay its hands on the glistening piece of silverwear.

Trinity ‘Lions’ (2)