Despite a heavy downpour and a largely waterlogged pitch, Navy SC produced a fine display of fast paced open rugby as they beat Army SC 35 – 25 in the 4th quarter final of the Dialog Clifford Cup – Knock out tournament worked off at the Racecourse Rugby stadium. Having led 28-03 at half time the winners collected their points through 5 Converted tries while Army accumulated their points with 1 goal, 3 tries and 1 penalty.
The atrocious weather conditions forced a delay in the kick off. It was the soldiers who were the first to ask questions of the Navy defense by sending the ball wide using their backs. Army were rewarded with a penalty in the 5th minute and Full back Gayan Salinda was happy to do the knock it over (Navy 00 – Army 03).
Despite taking a bit of time to settle down Navy slowly started to find their rhythm and once they did they looked irresistible, running at pace and using the full width of the pitch. Navy had the opportunity to equalize in the 15th minute through the boot of Thilina Weerasinghe but his kick lacked accuracy albeit from a difficult angle. Despite the early miss Weerasinghe was called into kicking duties once again, two minutes later when hooker Dulanja Wijesinghe sliced through the Army defense and touch down mid right. Weerasinghe added the extras as Navy went into the lead. (Navy 07 – Army 03).
The rain slowly eased up but it had already taken its toll leaving a heavily waterlogged pitch. Despite the ground conditions Navy swung the ball to either side of the park with confidence. Even though they fumbled the wet ball on a couple of occasions, the sailors always looked dangerous in attack. Navy extended their lead in the 35th minute through Thilina Weerasinghe who added the finishing touches to fine back division move by touching down for a corner flag try and converting it himself. (Navy 14 – Army 03).
Determined to make a comeback in the game Army came storming into the game with few threatening moves of their own but it was Navy who scored against the run of play with fine solo effort from Scrum half Richie Dharmapala. Collecting a kick inside his own half Richie managed to evade the tackle of the Army defender before sprinting 40 meters to score besides the corner flag. Weerasinghe made a stunning conversion from the difficult angle to take Navy to an 18 point lead. Things only got worse for the soldiers as they conceded another 7 points just before the break. A clearance kick was chased down by Navy’s winger Supun Dilshan who added pressure on Army’s full back Gayan Salinda. Salinda despite getting to the ball ahead of his opponent was hesitant to collect the ball and that was all it took as Dilshan punted the ball ahead and collected it himself to score under the posts. Weerasinghe added the extras as Navy went into the interval with a comfortable lead.
HALF TIME: NAVY SC 28 – ARMY SC 03
In contrast to the 1st half it was Navy who got off to a bright start and almost scored in the 42nd minute but Dulanja Wijesinghe was stopped just ahead of the try line. Army survived the initial scare and started to play the game at a fast pace which caused a few problems for the Navy defense. Army went on to score the first try of the 2nd half in the 50th minute, through center Ashan Bandara who side stepped his way to the line. Gayan Salinda added the extras with a fine conversion from the corner flag. (Navy 28 – Army 10).
5 minutes later Salinda scored a fine solo try covering 50 meters to ignite renewed hope for his team. Salinda’s conversion attempt lacked the distance but Army were back in the game with a chance. That Chance however never came as Navy using all their experience started to control the game better and had army pinned in their own half for the next quarter. After several close attempts by their marauding forwards the ball was sent out wide and Thilina Weerasinghe added the finishing touches scoring his 2nd try for the evening. Weerasinghe was on target with the conversion as Navy distanced themselves from their opponents. (Navy 35 – Army 15).
With little over 10 minutes remaining things looked bleak for the soldiers but they kept surging forward through some unorthodox but effective play by their backs. After entering the Navy 22 Army kept driving an exhausted Navy forward pack behind the gain line. After repeated infringements in the “red zone” by the sailors, referee Dinka Peiris had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try to Army. The hurriedly taken under the post conversion however was missed much to disappointment of the Army supporters. (Navy 35 – Army 20).
The Soldiers ended the game with a try during the dying stages of the game with Manoj Bandara scoring a consolation try. Gayan Salinda’s conversion went astray and with it ended, a muddy affair.
FULL TIME: NAVY SC 35 – ARMY SC 25
- Referee: Dinka Peiris
Thepapare.com Player of the match: Thilina Weerasinghe.
Score break down: Navy SC 35 (28)
Tries: Thilina Weerasinghe (2), Richie Dharmapala, Dulanjana Wijesinghe, Supun Dilshan.
Conversions: Thilina Weerasinghe.
Score break down: Army SC 25 (03)
Tries: Gayan Salinda, Ashan Bandara, Manoj Bandara, 1 penalty try)
Conversions: Gayan Salinda (1)
Penalties: Gayan Salinda (1)