A final minute penalty from Thilina Weerasinghe earned Navy their spot in the finals, as they beat Havelocks SC 28 points to 26, in the semi finals of the Clifford Cup at Racecourse grounds.
Riza Mubarak kicked off proceedings. The starts from both teams were untidy but it were the boys in pink who opened the scoring in the first half. Azmir Fajudeen was the try scorer who was carried over the line from the line out. Riza added the extras. (Havelocks 7 – Navy 0)
Navy immediately bounced back with a converted try by Charith Silva. Havelocks conceded a series of penalties inside their own 22m. Navy used their big forwards to push deep and ultimately it was Charith who touched down. Thilina bisected the uprights with ease. (Havelocks 7 – Navy 7)
The sailors then took control of the game and took the lead for the first time with a typical winger’s try from Chathura Gomez. Mohomed Absal at first receiver managed to hit the gap and draw the defenders towards him, allowing Gomez to run through open space on the outside. (Havelocks 7 – Navy 12)
Few moments later, Thilina took his chances and had a shot at goal 40m out but failed to succeed. On the other end Riza too got an opportunity to draw back the deficit through a penalty but he ended up hitting the uprights.
Havelocks were way below par in the first half but they somehow managed to go into the break with another try from Fajudeen. Similar to his first try but this time Riza failed to add the extras.
Half time: Havelocks 12(2T, 1C) – Navy 12(2T, 1C)
Navy started off the 2nd half with two back to back penalties from Thilina Weerasinghe. Things got even better for Navy when Adheesha Weerathunge jumped over for their third try of the game. This time Mushin Faleel broke through the half way mark then offloading to Richie Dharmapala who took the ball inside the 10m. Then it were the forwards led by Charith Silva who forced the ball over the try line. Thilina added the extras. (Havelocks 12 – Navy 25)
Navy was doing so well until the 66th minute where Raveen De Silva was sin binned, which turned the game on its head. Havelocks pounced on the advantage immediately with Lasindu Ishan jumping over after taking the ball from the 5m scrum. Riza was successful with the conversion. (Havelocks 19 – Navy 25)
Havelocks went on the attack knowing that they have the numerical advantage and they were successful once again when 2nd half substitute Gihan Madusanka touched down after a few phases inside the 10m. Riza added the extras to push Havelock ahead going into the final five minutes. (Havelocks 26 – Navy 25)
Thilina Weerasinghe took a big leap of faith when he decided to go for goal from 45m out with just over 2 minutes remaining on the clock. He missed the target by a small margin but fortunately the ball bounced off the crossbar and came straight to a charging Navy player.
Sailors kept the ball in possession and tried to force their way through using their forwards and ultimately they prevailed when Havelock conceded a penalty right under the post in the final minute of the game. Thilina Weerasinghe, being the highest points scorer in the league, did not need an invitation to shoot the ball through the uprights and take his team through to the finals.
Full Time: Havelocks 26(4T, 3C) – Navy 28 (3T, 3P, 2C)
ThePapare.com’s Player of the Match: Charith Silva (Navy)
Points scorers for Havelcoks: Tries from Azmir Fajudeen(2), Lasindu Ishan and Gihan Madusanka. Conversion from Riza Mubarak(3)
Points scorers for Navy: Tries from Charith Silva, Chathura Gomez and Adheesha Weerathunge. Penalties from Thilina Weerasinghe(3). Conversions from Thilina Weerasinghe (2)