Gemunu Chethiya recorded his third triple of the season as he propelled the Josephians to a 26-16 win over Wesley College, beginning the second round of the Singer Schools Rugby League on a winning note.
Two sides with potent three-quarters faced off at Havelock Park –who finished off second and third in respective groups– as the second round of the Schools’ Rugby league commenced.
The home side were force into a reshuffle — Piyatissa to wing, Chethiya to fullback– to their backline as Keshan Kavinda was forced to sit out due to a slight niggle and captain Sameesha Viranga made his way back into second five-eighth.
Daiyan Sabar returned to the number 08 birth after he displayed no signs of a hamstring niggle which troubled him just minutes into last weeks match against Dharmaraja.
Wesley College kicked off in rather unusual fashion and were made to pay for the horrible kick by Mursheed Zubair.
The home team cut the visitors defense in half with a sumptuous first phase move off their scrum leaving the Wesley defense gasping at thin air.
Gemunu Chethiya was the beneficiary as the prolific center resumed his try scoring following a two game drought. Santhush Algama converted marking it a perfect seven for the hosts, putting early pressure on the Les-Blues. (SJC 07-00 WC)
Wesley drew back with a penalty as the Josephian failed to clear their lines on three occasions as kick after kick was charged down.
Zubair made no mistake from the 15-meter line as their hard work inside the Josephian 22 was rewarded as they seemed to get a slight grip on the game even though they continued to trail on the scoreboard. (SJC 07-03 WC)
Minutes later the Josephians were stunned and the players were given a kick up their rears as the visitors took the lead through a try from Kavindana Perera. Zubair failed to add the extras from the touch line as the visitors took a single point lead in the game. (SJC 07-08 WC)
A gripping first half was only getting better as both sides tightened their defenses with the contact going up a notch and attack knocking harder on the defensive doors.
Naveen De Silva of St. Joseph’s College was the man who applied a neat finish to a break which featured Rashane Goonawardena. The nippy half-back collected a lose ball from the line out, stepped past the final man setting up De Silva who grabbed the lead back following Algama’s neat touch line conversion.
Half Time: St. Joseph’s College 14 (2T 2C) lead Wesley College 08 (1T 1P)
Wesley came out of the sheds following thorough discussion and struck straight away as the lads executed tactician Paul Toia’s master plan.
Sameesha kicked deep into the left side of the Wesley 22, only for the visitors to set up inside their own half on the opposite touchline and run towards the same side the kick came to.
Wesley College did it on two occasions and were rewarded with points on both chances as the two teams were separated by just two points.
Ryan Samuel was the try scorer on the first occasion –unconverted– while Zubair slotted over a penalty on the second time around to keep the supporters on the edge of their seats. (SJC 14-16 WC)
The double score spurred on the Wesley lads as they built phase after phase of attack, however, a misplaced kick saw Chethiya collect and counter to marvel the Park crowd, putting the hosts back in front.
The Josephian fullback skipped past would-be tacklers, chipping and collecting his own kick to dot down near the corner flag. Algama failed to add the extras missing for the first time leaving the game evenly poised heading into the final quarter. (SJC 19-16 WC)
The score, instantly shifted the momentum back in favor of the home side as the visitors were playing catch up rugby with time running out on them.
Chethiya was the man of the moment, and his third of the game brought about a sigh of relief to the title hopeful Josephian camp as there was still time for Wesley to conjure something in the game. (SJC 26-16 WC)
Time was fast running out and the discipline of both sides depleted equally fast as fatigue set in. Wesley’s Yohan Phillip saw yellow for repeated infringements and when captain Sameesha was sent to the bin for a high tackle minutes late, both teams had to be content playing the final minutes with 14 men.
Wesley continued to knock on the Josephian defective but the door remained firmly shut as the home team ran away with a bonus point win, sending the visitors back to Campbell Park empty handed.
Full Time: St. Joseph’s College 26 (4T 3C) beat Wesley College 16 (2T 2P)
ThePapare.com Player of the Match: Rashane Goonawardena
St. Joseph’s College – Gemunu Chethiya 3T, Naveen De Silva 1T, Santhush Algama 3C, Sameesha Viranga (Yellow Card)
Wesley College – Kavindana Perera 1T, Mursheed Zubair 2P, Ryan Samuel 1T, Yohan Phillip (Yellow Card)