High riding Royal College will be looking to add insult to injury when they meet S. Thomas’ College for the 56th Michael Gunaratne Trophy encounter on 24th March at Royal College Sports Complex.
The Michael Gunaratne Trophy was inaugurated back in 1962 where the first game ended in a stalemate. The matches in 1967, 1976, 1978 and 1997 ended up ties, making it 5 draws in total. The game in 1979 was not played due to dispute regarding the date of the encounter. However, Royal lead the tally by a clear 31 wins in reply to just 19 wins to the lads from Mount Lavinia.
The highest score for Royal was in 2015, under Bhanuka Gamage, recording a 52-nil win. The 22-00 win under Charya de Saram in 1991 still stands to date as the highest margin of victory for the Thomians.
S. Thomas’ won last in 2016 with a last minute try from Naveen Henakankanamage. The game was an extremely close encounter in which Royal led 15-14, but some brilliant work by Henakankanamage helped the Thomians to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and secure a win after three long years. However, Ovin Askey and his team redeemed themselves last year beating S. Thomas’ 31 points to 14, taking the Trophy back to Reid Avenue.
2007 RC won 22-18
2008 RC won 24-05
2009 RC won 37-33
2010 RC won 38-12
2011 RC won 22-07
2012 RC won 34-24
2013 STC won 29-20
2014 RC won 36 -17
2015 RC won 52-00
2016 STC won 21-15
2017 RC won 31 -14
Royal got the better of Kingswood and St. Anthony’s in their opening fixtures this year, securing bonus points in both games and leaving their opponents with low scores. Although a conventional Royal team would put forth well-oiled forwards as their forte, this year it is a complete team with a comfortable mix of equal competence in the backs and forwards. Their conditioning and mind-set is the stand out factor at Reid Avenue.
Royal play a sensible game, head-coach Dushanth Lewke has not got it wrong so far as his tactical changes and plans seem to work for Royal. Though Full-back Dulan Gunawardena is less involved in their attacking ploys, he has a good eye for space. He puts his boot to good use along with Centre Janidu Dilshan, who’s capable of taking the long range kicks.
The centre combination of Royal could cause all sorts of chaos to the Thomians. Strong runners, Thulaib Hassen and Janidu Dilshan occupy the 12 and 13 jerseys. Their excellent transition from attack to defence and vice versa will be a tough task for the Thomians and with skipper Sabith Feroze on the wing, the Royalists will be hoping to emulate last year’s feat.
Players to watch: Sabith Feroze will surely be aiming to stamp his mark leading from upfront. Fellow backline player, centre Janidu Dilshan has managed to bring on the razzle dazzle in the midfield and will seek to prove his worth this Saturday.
The Thomians faced two devastating losses at the hands of the Joes and Kingswood in their opening fixtures this year. Without the likes of prolific winger Naveen Henakankanamage, S. Thomas’ are left with fairly inexperienced quarter backs and lacks a speedster in their team.
In their game against Joes, the Thomians were defensively weak in the wings and the midfield. But they showed improvement in their game against Kingswood, lacking only in execution. Skipper Christian De Lile, plays a vital role at the back of the scrum alongside his deputies Harith Senanayake and Adeesha Handunpathrana. With the three seniors in the pack, the inexperienced backs fall short when compared to their opposition.
The forwards seem to be well conditioned and on point with their technique. The Thomians have scored thrice with their rolling maul, showing great composure. However, Jaan De Zoysa will have to up his game and combine well with his scrumhalf to create opportunities and allow the forwards show their strength.
Players to watch: Skipper Christian De Lile has already showed his forwards strength, and together with Harith Senanayake, they will have to be the change-makers for S. Thomas’.
Royal will be obvious favourites coming to the game, and unless S. Thomas’ learn from their past mistakes, polish their handling skills, execute their patterns and play to their strengths – the Michael Gunaratne Trophy will most likely remain at Reid Avenue.
Catch the live action on www.thepapare.com 24th March from 4.00pm onwards