What comes to mind when you mention the Universities is most likely all about academics but there is a lot more to University life than just studies.
Each year the University Inter-Rugby tournament takes place, hosted by a participating University. This time around it was Peradeniya who hosted the championship and they managed to claim the title after 4 years of heartbreak in the final. The last time Pera won the title was back in 2012 and they have, since then, managed to be the most consistent team in the championship, finishing as runners up during the 4 years in between titles. This time around they defeated Uva 63-00 in the quarters, Colombo 53-28 in the semis and Moratuwa in the final 29-24.
The journey for the season of 2017 for the Pera Lions began in the late months of 2016 where they started off training as soon as the first years came into the University. After all the hard work and the commitment and with all the combinations and the positions sorted out, Pera faced the Wayamba University in the first match of the tournament. This as expected was an easy stroll for the hosts. They finished the game 66 points to nil. Despite this, the curse of injury was faced in the first match itself, with a few niggles creeping in.
The following week Pera played the Sabaragamuwa University and beat them with a score-line of 43 points to 07. During the match the Captain, Udara Kasthuriarachchi, was yellow carded and the second center too was sent off for a late tackle – a straight red, meaning that at one point they had to play with 13 men.
With the two preliminary matches done, the quarters were moved to the more familiar venue of Nittawela where the Lions faced off against UVA University. This was one way traffic from the start, as the crowd witnessed a try-fest with an exact number of eleven tries being scored by the Lions. This saw them through to the semi-finals against a much tougher opponent -the University of Colombo. The game ended 53 points to 28 at the end of the allocated 80 minutes of play which was a much closer battle than the scoreboard would suggest. However, having overcome that obstacle, the Lions moved onto the final hurdle where they were to meet their archrivals the Moratuwa University, who had beaten them in the last 4 finals. Pera got ahead at the end of the first half 17 to 14 and they eventually managed to win the nail-biter at the end of the 80 minutes by 29 points to 24. It certainly seemed a long awaited and deserved win.
The victorious team was captained by Udara Kasthuriarachchi, a final year student who represented the Kingswood College 1st XV. He played a vital role at the Number 8 position. Throughout the tournament he was lethal, breaking from back of the scrum and creating trouble for the flankers and the defense line of the opposition.
Sasanka Weerakoon, famously known as Massa, was his partner in crime. He managed to sneak in a try in every game leading up to the final but failed to score in the big game. He managed to score 8 tries in the tournament, which is the highest number of tries by any player this season.
Another two players who excelled were Arosha Jayathilake and Isuru Herath. Arosha played as the second center while Isuru played everywhere but his preferred position at the second row. A true utility player, he functioned as full back, center and wing three-quarter when the team needed him.
There was high praise for the coaching staff led by Rohith Mendis, trainer Anuja Malwaarachchi and the backs’ coach Saman Kothalawala, by the players of the team who pointed out that the skills of the players were corrected and made perfect by the respective coaches. In the final there were very little handling errors from the Pera team compared to the Moratuwa team.
The captain Udara Kasthuriarachchi, Castro to the rest, spoke to ThePapare.com, “I first of all thank the players and the coaching staff and the sponsors D fashion. We were able to play as one team with the team, although facing a lot of injury problems. When the vital seniors got injured the new lads put in place of them played to that level as well which helped us to win the championship. The team couldn’t sustain the same set of players from the start to the end as more that 7 players sustained fractures and hamstring pulls. This victory was because of the hard yards put in at practices; we started practices early and then got the team combinations in place and practiced as a team”
He also thanked the Old Pera Rugby Family and the other Universities who participated in the tournament for the support to help University rugby raise the bar and get to the level where people will come to watch.