CH & FC continued with their fine recent form when they claimed a hard-fought 29-22 victory over Air Force at the Dialog Rugby League’s 3rd week fixture of the second round in Rathmalana today.
In a highly entertaining game, in which both sides employed expansive game-plans, the Airmen will be kicking themselves as they held the upper-hand for large periods but a superb second half fight back from CH & FC proved too strong for the home side in the end. This is a carbon copy game of the Air Force story so far in the Dialog Rugby League
The visitors were full value for their win as they outscored the Airmen five tries to four with Samuel Maduwantha leading the way with a deserved brace. CH showed their intent from the outset by running the ball from all areas of the field.
Air Force was guilty at the scrums and the breakdowns as they conceded too many penalties and turnovers in an abject second half only scoring five points. Also, they struggled to deal with the strong wind and the CH backline’s aerial prowess.
The result means CH secure the fourth spot in the league although that situation could change depending on the performances of the other sides later in the round. Meanwhile, Air Force are still in the bottom spot.
The first try came after just five minutes. With CH stringing together the phases and bearing down on the airmens try-line, CH scrum-half Sudam Sooriyaarachchi played a nice short pass as Naveen Heenakankanamage hit the gap, he stepped and sucked three defenders in contact where Maduwantha was on hand to gather and score under the posts. Maduwantha gleefuly accepted the gift from under posts, giving CH an early 7-0 lead after five minutes.
Air Force however were slowly getting into the game and eventually opened their account two minutes later courtesy of Nuwan Perera’s try after he sniped through from back of a ruck courtesy of a penalty-quick tap brought them to the red zone of CH as soon as they strayed offside on defence. (CH 07-00 AF)
The next five minutes was a frantic affair as the boys from Maitland Place tried to extend the lead. They spent large periods camped inside the Air Force half, the relentless pressure was rewarded in the next phases as a line-out resulting a penalty gave CH their second try. Niwanka Prasad who had received the line-out gave the ball through hands to Prasad Madusanka who secured things at the back and went over the whitewash. Maduwantha added the extras to extend the lead.
This did not demoralize Air Force as they continued to attack but despite creating plenty of chances, they were kept at bay by a resilient defensive effort from CH for some good five minutes until a missed tackle sent Thilina Bandara over from the back of the ruck. (CH 14-10 AF)
Despite that try, the airmen wanted more and continued to attack and that approach paid dividends in the 20th minute when Saraka Weralla gathered the ball from the back of the scrum just inside 22m line in the oppositions half before setting off on a great run untouched over the line. Nuwan Perera’s conversion kick meant, the Airmen had their tails up with the score 17-14 in their favour at half-time.
The rest of the half was a dour affair characterized by several unforced errors and poor discipline from both sides. And after warnings to both teams for repeated infringements, the Air Force were reduced to 14 men in the 36th minute when playmaker Nuwan Perera was yellow carded for an indiscretion on defence.
Half Time: CH & FC 14(2T 2C) – 17(3T 1C) Air Force SC
CH & FC came out firing after the interval and in the 45th minute Sudam Sooriyaarachchi narrowed the gap when he crossed for their third try after the ball went through several phases in the build-up. Air Force were reduced to 13 men at the time with Parakkrama Rathnayake being sent to the bin courtesy of a high tackle on Sudam.
And on the hour-mark Sudarshana Muthuthanthri found himself in the clear close to the touchline, midway between the halfway mark and the Air Force try-line.
The Sri Lanka Sevens’ captain still had work to do but after selling Iddamalgoda a brilliant dummy, he burst through a tackle from Thilina Bandara before sending Rohitha Rajapakshe to pick and drop over the line. (CH 24-17 AF)
Airmen were now making error after error and chances were blown, notably when a five-meter line-out went astray and then a Nuwan Perera pass to Charles Praveen saw the ball spilled.
Shortly afterwards, CH made full use of their numerical advantage when Samuel Maduwantha won the aerial battle from close quarters as Sudam Sooriyaarachchi opted for the chip and was over for an easy try. (CH 29-17 AF)
Air Force were not yet dead and buried and delivered a riposte in the dying minutes. Having worked their way up to the ten-metre line, Nuwan Kumara got the offload away from the back of the driving maul for Yohan Perera who crashed over from close range.
CH played it smart and used phases towards the end to seal the game in their favour after having trailed at half time.
Half Time: CH & FC 29(5T 2C) – 22(4T 1C) Air Force SC
ThePapare.com Player of the Match – Sajith Saranga (CH & FC)
Air Force SC
Tries from Nuwan Perera 1T, Thilina Bandara 1T, Yohan Perera 1T and Saraka Weralla 1T
Conversion from Nuwan Perera
CH & FC
Samuel Maduwantha 2T, Sudam Sooriyaarachchi 1T, Rohitha Rajapakshe 1T and Prasad Madusanka 1T
Conversions from Samuel Maduwantha 2C