A muddy, nail biting tussle at the Nittawela rugby grounds ended with Royal having the last laugh over a spirited Dharmaraja outfit with an Ovin Askey drop goal. The skies opened up 30 minutes before the kick off which made the conditions very soggy for a good game of rugby. 

Both Royal and Dharmaraja didn’t disappoint the packed Nittawela stadium. Royal were the much favoured outfit from the beginning and the Rajans came in as underdogs. After 80 minutes of hard fought rugby only 3 points separated the two sides when the long whistle was blown. Royal having scraped through to victory with a drop goal, the score read Royal 18 (2T 1C 1P 1DG) – 15 (2T 1C 1DG) Dharmaraja. At lemons it was Dharmaraja in the lead 15-08

After the kick off both teams looked scrappy in ball handling showing no signs of scoring and Rajans’ chances of scoring was further dampened by a yellow card to their number six Pramuditha Hasaranga by referee Arshad Cader. Royal got the first scoring opportunity when they received a penalty right under the posts. Mohommed Shaqir had a distance of around 35m to cover which he did with pinpoint accuracy giving them the first points of the game after 20 minutes of play. (Royal 03-00 Dharmaraja)

Dharmaraja who had exerted some pressure dominating the physical battle out in the middle scored next through their winger Binura Bandara who sprinted and dived in for his try in the corner. After all the hard work and the grinding had been done by the forwards the ball was well distributed to the backs, who worked their way over to Bandara. Gihan Ishara converted a difficult kick with ease from the corner flag of the field 30m away from the posts.  (Royal 03-07 Dharmaraja)

Sabith Feroze then got a yellow soon after for a high tackle which was spotted by the linesman. GIhan Malinga of Dharmaraja was then sent to the sin bin for a late tackle on the rushing Royal attack. This nullified the extra man advantage as within seconds a player from both teams was sin binned.

The game continued with 14 men on the park for each team. Soon after returning from the naughty boy chair, Sabith Feroze made up for his tackle by scoring the first try for the Royalists. This was just like the Dharmaraja try where when the forwards set it up the ball was neatly worked to the winger who dived in for the try. Ovin Askey failed to put through the conversion with his attempt at goal. (Royal 08-07 Dharmaraja)

Gihan Ishara replied soon after taking the lost lead with a brilliant drop goal from the left flank of the field. He was around 40m away from the posts when he took it. (Royal 08-10 Dharmaraja)

The Rajans hit back again through Pramudith Hasaranga who charged the box kick attempted by the Royal number 09 Migara Mihisanka. The charged ball fell inside the try area when Hasaranga got a hand on it to score. Gihan Ishara failed to convert this time around. The kick had accuracy but not the legs to go all the way. (Royal 08-15 Dharmaraja)

Half Time; Royal 08(1T 1P) – 15 (2T 1C 1DG) Dharmaraja

The second half started with a try to Royal. Dharmaraja made a mess of the restart kick as they knocked it on which gave way for a scrum. The Royal forwards then grinded it over the line through Hamza Reeza. Reeza was brilliant throughout the game when it came to line out throws and winning the up close physical battles with the Rajans’ forwards. Mohommed Shaqir converted from right under the posts. (Royal 15-15 Dharmaraja)

Both teams failed to score any points making it more exciting for the crowd that was present at the grounds. Dharmaraja had plenty of opportunities to score as they went within 5m of scoring thrice. All three times they made some silly mistake which handed Royal with the chance to clear the line and get out of jail. Sabith Feroze then got another yellow card for a very late tackle which meant he was done for the day.

Referee Arshad Cader had no second thoughts when he showed him the second yellow and then the red card. This was with around 15 minutes of play remaining. Dharmaraja squandered chances to score over and over again even with having the extra man. Royal in the dying minutes of the game cleared their line through a penalty.

The following line out was then set up for Ovin Askey the Royal hero to be who put through an easy drop goal from under the posts. The referee then blew the whistle to finish off the game with Royal going past the spirited Dharmaraja team. (Royal 18-15 Dharmaraja)

Royal are now unbeaten in the league taking second place with Isipathana College topping the group.

Full time – Royal 18 (2T 1C 1P 1DG) – 15 (2T 1C 1DG) Dharmaraja

ThePapare.com’s Player of the Match: Hamza Reeza (Royal)

Score breakdown

Royal Hamza Reeza (1T) Sabith Feroze (1T) Mohommed Shaqir (1C 1P) Ovin Askey (1DG)

Dharmaraja Binura Bandara (1T) Pramudith Hasaranga (1T) Gihan Ishara (1C 1DG)