Army completes retribution arc with a thrilling win over Air Force

Nippon Paint Club Rugby League 2023/24

Army SC Vs Air Force SC

In another week 08 game of the Nippon Paint Club Rugby League 2023/24, Army SC hosted Air Force SC at the Army Grounds at Panagoda. In their round 01 fixture Air Force walked out with a win by the barest of margins and in this Plate Championship clash Army managed to take revenge for the earlier loss with a scoreline of 21-15.

Both teams had their opportunities to start things off and Air Force were the much more dominant side with a lot of close calls near the try line. They even had the numbers advantage when Kaveen Perera of Army was yellow carded after a dangerous tackle on Pramod Pathmasanka. But the Army defence stood strong and didn’t let the Airmen breach through for a try. Then it was the opportunity for Army to enter the opposition territory and a mistake by Aaron Joshua from Air Force while they were trying to run from their own half gave possession back to Army and the soldiers tried working the ball out to the left side of the field and then shifted gears to the right side as Ashan Bandara and Lasantha Kumara took them close to the whitewash. Thilina Pushpakumara made sure to finish the job as the first try of the game came in the 16th minute. Bandara missed an angled conversion from the right hand side of the field (ASC 05 – 00 AFSC)

After the first try from the soldiers, Air Force quickly shifted gears and went into hard attacking mode and they straightaway made inroads into the Army half. Soldiers conceded a line offside penalty which opened up an opportunity for the Airmen to begin their account as skipper Parakrama Rathnayaka opted to go for points. Nadun Gunasekara proved his skipper’s decision right with a perfect kick through the posts to cut the deficit down (ASC 05 – 03 AFSC)

Late into the first half, Army almost scored another try but Air Force managed to kick the ball out of the in-goal area to prevent them from going over. But from the 22m dropout which followed Dishara Kodagoda made a good collection from the right side of the field and gave a long pass out Lahiru Rathnayake who gave out a similar long pass to Sudharaka Dikkumbura and what followed was a moment of absolute magic. Because of the two long passes from the right side, the left hand side of the field opened up for Dikkumbura and he just picked up the pace and ran between the first gap and then evaded an incoming tackler and managed to escape an ankle tap attempt as well. Ishara Madushan tried to hold onto Dikkumbura and stop him but the power and pace of Dikkumbura was too much as he found the whitewash. Skipper Bandara couldn’t convert the try and add the extra points to the board (ASC 10 – 03 AFSC)

In the dying minutes of the first half, Madushan was a one man wrecking crew for the Air Force as he started the flow of momentum. Then Army conceded a penalty and Gunasekara took them deep with a thumping territorial kick. From the line-out which followed, Air Force gained some metres with the maul and then decided to work the ball out as some slick passing from Kumarasinghe to Pathmasanka and then to Madushan gave them an all important try. The conversion unfortunately didn’t go through and the Army lead at half time was just 2 points (ASC 10 – 08 AFSC) 

Half Time : Army SC 10 – 08 Air Force SC 

The second half began in an uneventful manner and it was a stop-start affair with a lot of injuries and stoppages. But the pace picked up after the 55th minute mark as Army launched an attack after receiving a scrum from the halfway mark. The backline of the hosts managed to put up a phenomenal display of passing to gain good yardage and skipper Bandara ended the job with a little show and go to reach out and touch the ball down. However Bandara failed to convert the try (ASC 15 – 08 AFSC)

10 minutes later, Air Force found themselves inside Army territory and they received an offside advantage. From the penalty they went for the kick into touch. From the lineout Airmen worked the ball out to the right side of the field and it opened up the left hand side of the field for them as they shifted the direction of attack quickly and Dharshana Dabare went all the way with a dummy at the end to take them into touching distance from the number of points of Army. Gunasekara completed a terrific conversion to make it even stevens at Panagoda going into the last 8 minutes of the game (ASC 15 – 15 AFSC) 

Just a few minutes later Air Force SC conceded a penalty from kickable distance for Army and the Army skipper pointed at the posts without any hesitation. With Bandara failing to add points with the boot, the hosts decided to give this opportunity to Chamath Fernando who came in as a replacement player and he backed the decision adding the 3 points and giving his team back the lead (ASC 18 – 15 AFSC) 

As the time ran out, chances for the Air Force to make a comeback got slimmer and slimmer. As the nail in their coffin, Gunasekara knocked the ball forward and one of their own players tried to collect the ball from an offside position inside their own half. This gave Army the chance to add 3 more points and Fernando kicked it through easily as the referee signalled for the final whistle (ASC 21 – 15 AFSC) 

Air Force had the numbers advantage for 20 minutes in this game and they had 3 very close calls during the first quarter of the game but they had to return back to their own half without any points in all those occasions. They’ll look back and be really disappointed for missing out on all those chances as if they made use of those opportunities it would’ve been a completely different story. Army on the other hand missed out on less chances and their defence was on point throughout the game which made the job hard for the visitors. 

Sudharaka Dikkumbura scored one of the best running tries of the season and he was extremely useful throughout the game to gain important metres and with his pace he always put the Air Force defenders on notice thus giving him the Black Knight Player of the Match Award.

Full Time : Army SC 21 (3T 2P) beat Air Force SC 15 (2T 1C 1P) 

Black Knight Player of the Match : Sudharaka Dikkumbura (Army SC) 

Points Breakdown  

Army SC : Sudharaka Dikkumbura 1T , Ashan Bandara 1T , Thilina Pushpakumara 1T , Chamath Fernando 2P 

Air Force SC : Ishara Madushan 1T , Dharshana Dabare 1T , Nadun Gunasekara 1C 1P