The final leg of the Asia sevens series will commence this weekend at the picturesque Racecourse international grounds in Colombo. Sri Lanka Tuskers finished second best in the previous two legs held in Hong Kong and South Korea.
Sri Lanka men are drawn in Pool B alongside China, Chinese Taipei and Singapore whilst Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea aredrawn in Pool A.
The Tuskers beat Chinese Taipei 43 – 12 and Singapore 27 – 05 in their meetings in this series, therefore it is expected that Sri Lanka will go past those two countries in the pool clash especially with home-advantage. However, Danushka Ranjan’s men did struggle against an improved China team as they edged passed with a 19 -17 win in the cup semifinal in Hong Kong. Later, the Tuskers went down 26 – 21 inthe South Korea leg pool clash despite beating the hosts 26 -10 and going in to the finals.
Two wins in the pool stage is sufficient to go to the cup semifinals on day two and it is more likely that Hong Kong and South Korea will be promoted from group A as the Asian giants Japan is only fielding a development squad.
There was a vast difference in the playing style of the Tuskers in both the finals against Hong Kong. In the first leg Sri Lanka lost 17 – 22 and 36 – 00 in the second leg. Sri Lanka rugby coach Mat Turner who’s a former England 7s player said “Obviously we’ve had to adapt our game style against them slightly we were working in the last two weeks”
Mat further stated on the big tournament “I think there is no better place and time for us to beat Hong Kong, we are at home, we had a good year so far, we had two goes and third time lucky? Hopefully the boys will be up for it and go and get them.”
Hong Kong being the Achilles Heel in the recent past, Sri Lanka should find some solutions and according to Mat and captain Danushka Ranjan they have better plans to overcome the adversary especially if they meet Hong Kong on day two.
Hong Kong humiliated the Tuskers 36 – 00 with their rush defense intact which had them in favour even without a sweeper.
In the first graphic below, Sri Lanka had the first chance with position at about 3 minutes of play when from the breakdown the ball was sent to the first receiver, Hong Kong’s sweeper rushed to join the defensive line leaving no protection behind.
In the below image the ball is in Tarinda Ratwatte’s hand, but Omalka Gunarathne was too flat on that occasion in the wing. You can see no sweeper yet again as Hong Kong was so confident inside the Sri Lankan jail. Ratwatte however, went in to contact sensibly on that occasion perhaps he could have kicked deep or if Omalka was another 2m behind it would have been interesting to see him going one on one as he is strong. We have witnessed before Anurudda Wilwara in a similar one on one situation where he smashed his opposite number using his upper body strength.
In the second half too Hong Kong tactics did not change as they rushed in defense as soon as Sri Lanka players hit the breakdown point. In the below graphic No 1 and No 7 and ball carrier Dulaj Perera were pressured by two Hong Kong players.
Dulaj had no option but to go in to contact, look how flat Hong Kong is in the below image. No sweeper but Sri Lanka had no time to think on this occasion in order to affect a deep kick and chase. The incident was almost inside the 22m; had so many yards, if the Tuskers could have kicked and chased scoring opportunities on the cards.
Apart from this Sri Lanka had one of the poorest rates in the restarts, as they lost almost all and Hong Kong were too smart changing all their kicks in different angles which became a nightmare for the Tuskers in the second leg finals.
Sevens is always a funny game and tactics will vary game by game and strength to strength therefore, the last two weeks should have given enough time for the home boys to prepare well and beat any opposition with confidence. Sri Lanka Tuskers have never won the cup title despite the U20’s and 18’s creating history winning them this year. If the senior men can do that on the home soil it will be the icing on the cake for Sri Lanka rugby 2016.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka women’s team will have a tough challenge alongside Hong Kong, Singapore and China and Japan. In the women’s segment Japan won the 1st leg 14 -07 then China took revenge in the 2nd leg winning 21 – 14 in an enthralling finale.