The Tuskers kept their title hopes alive, making it two out of two wins when they beat the United Arab Emirates 33-17 in the Asia Rugby Championship (ARC) Division One tournament despite losing Dhanushka Ranjan to an unfortunate injury prior to the decider against Malaysia.
Sri Lanka laboured with inconsistent scrums, scrappy lineouts and irate passes, but prevailed in the end thanks largely to some hard work by the forwards and Richard Dharmapala on the wing.
Richard put in a mammoth effort as he set up two tries, assisting one and creating the second in the latter part of the second half.
Sri Lanka dominated from the onset, and of course it was the ever present Fazil Marija scoring within 60 second of kick off. Thilina Wijesinghe broke, with Fazil in support and dotting down to give the Lankan an early lead even though Wijesighe unfortunately failed to add the extras. (SL 05-00 UAE)
UAE Five-eight Stevenson and Lankan fullback Wijesinghe traded penalties no sooner the first try was scored for Sri Lanka.
Stevenson, first cut the deficit as he slotted over, even though he had a disappointing day with the boot.
Weerasinghe restored the five point gap between the sides as his effort pierced the posts a few minutes later. (SL 08-03 UAE)
Ill-tempered Sharo Fernando – always in the thick of things – saw yellow for a blatant shoulder charge as the Lankans were reduced to 14-men.
UAE took advantage of the one man difference as they scored a try of their own through eighth-man Glen Moore. The big lad picked off a five-meter scrum, showed and crashed over, seemingly untouched, leveling the scores.
Stevenson converted taking United Arab Emirates into the lead for the first time in the game. (SL 08-10 UAE)
Dhanushka Ranjan made his presence felt, as he often does, displaying nimble feet to score for the Lankans. Wijesinghe converted from an acute touch line angle to take Sri Lanka to the lead once again. (SL 15-10 UAE)
The dive to score cost Ranjan his place in the team as he was substituted off with his shoulder in a sling. The injury meant the Sri Lankans were compelled to reshuffle their team with Joel Perera playing flanker and Jason Dissanayake moving to the wing.
Josh Ives saw yellow for a high tackle on Richard Dharmapala, a few minutes after falling back on the scoreline.
UAE was further crippled, numbers vice, as Chris Green saw yellow for a tip tackle. Thilina made easy work of the resulting penalty, taking Sri Lanka further ahead on the scoreboard. (SL 18-10 UAE)
Stevenson’s day took a turn to the worst as the first receiver missed three penalties off the tee. Meanwhile Lankan hooker Prashanth Madushanka saw yellow for a cynical penalty.
The three penalties proved to be costly even though Andy Powell scored on the stroke of half time. The big inside centre came in short and was duly rewarded with a five pointer.
Stevenson got the conversion at the fourth time of asking as UAE went into the break, trailing by a single point.
Halftime: Sri Lanka 18 (2T 1C 2P) – United Arab Emirates 17 (2T 2C 1P)
With a single point lead in the bag, the Lankans came out with the intention of scoring early.
Richard Dharmapala, on the left wing, was the first to pick a loose kick, counter attacking with vigour.
The winger beat five men before offloading to Fazil Marija, who made his way towards the try line, gifting Lee Keegal a try. Weerasinghe converted from under the post. (SL 25-17 UAE)
Josh Ives was sent off on the hour mark as he was penalized for his second yellow card of the game, a neck roll on Lee Keegal.
Omalka Gunaratne, put in a mammoth performance, the youngster standing out among the forwards.
Richard Dharmapala was architect of the second try in the second half as the winger made a dashing break down the wing. The next phase saw the Lankan forwards showing good skills, passing the ball to the opposite wing to set up Jason Dissanayake. Thilina failed to add the extras. (SL 30-17 UAE)
UAE pushed the Lankan defense to the tipping point, however the Sri Lankan defence held firm to their credit, keeping the opposition pointless in the second half of the game.
With time running out and the bonus point win all but secured, the Lankans made a final push toward the UAE line.
The pressure told as the Arabic defense was caught offside. Thilina converted the resulting penalty on the stroke of full time to hand the Lankans a deserved bonus point win.
The Tuskers will have their fingers crossed regarding the fitness of Dhanushka Ranjan in the hopes that he will return for the crunch game against Malaysia this Saturday (20th)
Full Time: Sri Lanka 33 (4T 2C 3P) beat United Arab Emirates 17 (2T 2C 1P)
The Tuskers’ Coach Fereti Verebula expressed his views following the game “ We need improve on keeping possession and our set pieces, our scrums too, was not upto scratch and we will work on them and come on Saturday for the decider against Malaysia”