No, the odds didn’t turn in favour of Kandy at the Colombo Racecourse last week. Yes, they lost, a single game, their 6th in 5 years. But does that mean that the Kandy side is out of league title contention?
Kandy Sports Club do not travel well to three places. 1. the Air Force Ground in Ratmalana 2. Welisara and 3. the Colombo Racecourse. These three grounds have seen the Kandy Club tested to their capacity and have often seen them fail to deliver.
Last week’s 33-17 result giving CH & FC the deserved victory proved that Kandy Sports Club are now at a vulnerable stage and they have fallen a step or two from their dominance in the circuit.
Coming from a successful 63-31 thrashing of Navy Sports Club at Nittawela, everyone expected the Kandy side to do the same at the Colombo Racecourse when they confronted the 6-game unbeaten CH & FC side.
Rather than confronting the challenge from the fierce forwards of CH, Kandy backtracked and later their inadequacy to strike back at crucial stages cost them the game and the top spot of the league.
So, what is with Kandy and their woes with the three venues? From 2014, the Kandy club has lost only 6 times in 5 seasons. The record itself shows how a single club has completely dominated the local rugby arena in the modern era.
In the span of 5 years, Kandy has only lost twice at home with the recent being against Army. The other 4 away losses have been at the three venues listed. In 2014, Kandy faced their first-ever loss in 11 years to Army SC when Rohitha Rajapakse’s Army outfit defeated the fierce Kandy side 21-13. That was a time when overseas players were eligible to play but the Kandy team did not read the conditions too well and were completely outplayed.
Five years later, a CH & FC team led by Rohitha Rajapakse repeated the feat at the Colombo Racecourse. This time, the margin of victory is bigger than that of 2014. CH & FC finished with a 33-17 score line.
With the sun blazing down, Kandy was awestruck from the very first minute. Coming into the game with a serious injury list, the Kandy side faltered. Their strategies didn’t go to plan, as Kandy continuously gave away unnecessary possession.
CH & FC with their thirst for victory made sure that they pounced on Kandy at their vulnerable stage and they succeeded in their venture.
In a peculiar coincidence, when Kandy was defeated by Army in 2014, they were coming off a 78-09 massacre of Air Force. In 2019, Kandy had just outclassed Navy in a high scoring game that ended 63-31.
You can’t actually blame Kandy for their mishap. In fact, Kandy Sports Club has been left with no choice but to travel to Colombo on 7 occasions to play the rest of the clubs.
Just this season, Kandy will play three back to back games in Colombo, the game against CH last weekend, followed by games against CR & FC and later Havelock SC.
In contrast to Ratmalana, Racecourse and Welisara, Kandy Sports Club have travelled well to Longdon Place and Havelock Park; two venues that they will play at in the next two weeks.
Havelock Park has become home to the defending champions as they have dominated the Pink jerseys. The conditions in comparison from the Nittawela turf are completely different where Kandy have been made to adapt to playing under floodlights and the Kandy club have successfully conquered the Park club.
In 4 meetings, Kandy has secured 4 wins with only the game in 2014 being a close contest.
This year’s trip to Havelock Park will be a huge challenge for the Kandy side with a must-win game in the 14th week.
The Longdon Place ground, home of CR&FC has also been good to the Kandy side with them winning 2 out of the 3 games they have played there. The 2014/15 clash ended in a 27-27 draw. In 2015/16 the game against CR was played at Racecourse.
With two important trips to Colombo, Kandy Sports Club will breathe a sigh of relief considering their track record in the grounds that they will play in the 13th and 14th gameweeks.
In 2016/17 when Kandy had won the league and the knockout, they expected to emulate the same in the following year only to be defeated by Air Force and then Navy.
That year, Roshan Weeraratne and his team had a huge challenge. They had to win all of the second-round games with a bonus point to win the league. Despite losing two games, Kandy Sports Club emerged victorious, drubbing a confident Havelock outfit at Nittawela to win the title.
Perhaps Kandy should be re-watching that footage to see how to repeat that feat this 18/19 season.