After what felt like an eternity, 43rd ranked Sri Lanka took on a team ranked 48th by World Rugby in the XVs format, Malaysia. Sri Lanka would have felt very bullish coming off a 50+ thumping of a Malaysian selection or “Barbarians” XV, just 48 hours prior.
In front of a stadium packed with empty yellow seats – fifty odd thousand plus. It was a ghost town. To add to this Casper like effect was the Sri Lankan first half defence. Nonexistent. Ghost like.
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Both teams coached by New Zealanders: Matt Lee and Bradley Mika. One from Wellington and the other an Aucklander.
It wasn’t the greatest of rugby as Sri Lanka looked very deconditioned. They looked awful. Sri Lanka was missing fitness. Stumbling from error to error. 9 in the first 10 minutes.
Hampered by ill-preparation, thanks to the security situation prevailing in the island, the next to no preparation showed in a largely error riddled show. It was kind of like going for the premier of the Titanic but ending up watching “A tug boat on the river”.
Malaysia wasn’t exactly the greatest either but showed more endeavor with ball in hand. Their error rate was far less than SLs. Including 2 Fijian born players. Notably, No 8 Waqa.
So, what are five things we now know, after this one off “Test”.
1. Shining bright like a lantern
The only shining light for Sri Lanka was Samuel Maduwanthe and his kicking game and mostly, if not all, Omalka G who was a true “bull in the china shop”. He wreaked havoc.
If there’s anything at all a player can do when in national colours, albeit in the Colombo or Western province stripes– to give it everything you have. OG played a lone hand and looked menacing with his carries. 13 of them for 41+ run meters and 2 tries. As captain, he led by example, especially in the last 10 minutes.
Apart from that, the least spoken the better.
2. WTF: Where’s the fitness?
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As “professional” rugby players at representative level (Provincial and Sri Lanka), it’s your number one priority to stay fit and in shape. It’s an all year requirement.
Given that this competition is coming off a full season of club rugby and a provincial game, there is no excuse to be out of shape which was what most players were. If there were GPS stats, it wouldn’t make for pretty reading.
There is some allowance for the disruptive nature due to the terror attacks but as individuals, it is each to their own. You must find a way to stay fit.
Apart from a handful what we witnessed was a walk in the park, at times, from breakdown to breakdown. Error forced scrums. Use an UBER next time.
3. Right call, all the time
If there’s another silver lining, it was the decision making with taking shots at goal to convert penalties.
In Samuel Maduwanthe, SL have a world class goal kicker. He can kick from the car park.
As the game opened up and fitness issues plagued both sides in defense, infringements began to mount. Samuel converted twice and then it was a brave Thilina Wijesinghe with a couple.
This allowed SL to stay in touch and made it a lot closer than the run on play and statistics suggested.
Taking the points on offer was absolutely the right call. As a team and strategy, SL must learn to kick teams out of the game and into touch.
4. Fijian flavour
As it happens, Malaysia who have proactively invested in a rugby program from all facets have a good Fijian contingent.
They fielded three of them in their game day line up. The most potent being their No 8 Waqa, picking up 9 tackle busts and a dozen off loads.
It’s the way of world rugby. Naturalised players who are recruited from (mostly) the Pacific islands. They allow these countries to be competitive.
That said, based on what we witnessed and Sri Lanka’s missing top line players, it wouldn’t have made too much difference. We will never know on this occasion unless both sides are pitted again with their best lineups.
But for now, the Fijian flavour with a Korean winger made its impact. It was a winning one.
Will Sri Lanka follow suit? (Abiding to correct process and protocol).
5. Beast mode
It’s rare for #straightup to give a single event or performance multiple wraps.
When I do, it’s worthy of it. OG, Sri Lanka’s youngest national -representative captain was in total beast mode.
Putting aside his in season club form and inconsistency, he took upon the responsibility and played with all his heart. Wearing it on his sleeve.
All that aside, he knew where he was most potent, closer to the line and in straightup carries. It was an inspiring show.
Furthermore he looked like he had done his strength and conditioning. The power and acceleration was evident.
It was unfortunately in a losing cause. Regardless, we enjoyed his “Beast mode”.
Regardless of the result it was a remarkable fight back from 6-24 at the half to end within 5 points. Much thanks to one man’s efforts.
Like I said in my last video segment, “less time in the kitchen and more time at the gym as opposed to the pub”. Tsk tsk tsk tsk.
Moreover, given the recent events and postponed rugby, it was a welcome break for all local rugby fans. Some if not most, suffering withdrawal symptoms of not having to watch any games for a while.
It was a healthy online audience and the message boards were buzzing.
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