The first Semi-final of the Dialog Schools Rugby Knockouts 2023 took place today at Havelock Park between defending champions Isipathana College and the most improved side of the season – Zahira College. After a thrilling first half where Zahira pushed Isipathana fearlessly and effectively, the defending champs produced a stellar second half to walk out with a 39-10 win.
Isipathana looked a bit rusty from the kickoff and Zahira shell-shocked them with a try just in the fourth minute of the game after a clearance kick from the Green Machine Skipper Naveen Kanishka was charged down by Mohamed Rifad, as he made the collection and gave the ball out to Shahib Zabri, who took them close towards the try line. Afterwards, the big prop forward M. R. Mohamed did the rest by going over the line. Their highly exciting place kicker Ahamed Saad added the two extra points. (IC 00 – 07 ZC)
Zahira’s 7-point lead went on for the next 12 minutes or so until Isipathana found the whitewash for the first time. After a high tackle penalty was awarded to Isipathana, Kanishka took them deep into the opposition half with a thumping kick, and what followed was a solid line-out and then some lovely passing from right to left, with Hashen Randimal going over from the left corner. Rinesh Silva’s first kick of the day did not go through as Zahira still had the lead, although it was reduced to just two. (IC 05 – 07 ZC)
Around five minutes after Isipathana’s first try, Isipathana once again entered the opposition half and got close to the 22m line before Abdullah conceded a penalty for not rolling away. Silva got the kick through as his team took the lead for the first time in the game during the 23rd minute. (IC 08 – 07 ZC)
A couple of minutes later, Saad went for a kick from their own 22, but just overcooked the kick as it was a full out, which meant the Green Machine entered the Zahira 22m territory once again. After another good line-out, Isipathana followed the same strategy from the first try of working the ball from right to left as Randimal went over the try line. Silva missed the conversion again as their lead stayed on six points. (IC 13 – 07 ZC)
Just before the Half Time break, Zahira received a penalty after a line offside infringement from the opposition Skipper. They went for the points and Saad easily kicked it through to cut the deficit down to just three points at Half Time. (IC 13 – 10 ZC)
In the first ten minutes of the second half, Zahira showed a lot of promise but were unfortunately unable convert that promise into points. However, just like in the first half, Isipathana found their groove after the first ten minutes. Zahira helped them a bit as well when they conceded a penalty for a high shot just five metres away from their own try line. The boys in green went for a scrum from the penalty, and Chamindu Chirath, who received the ball from the scrum, overpowered the last line of defence to find the whitewash. Silva missed a very straightforward kick again as his not so good day with the boot continued. (IC 18 – 10 ZC)
Isipathana then produced another five pointer after Iroshana Gamage turned the ball over in the opposition half and Rinesh Silva produced a blazing run into the 22m territory. They worked the line from there onwards, and Gamage, who joined the line, overpowered a couple of defenders to get even closer before Nisaja Jayaweera finished the job. As Silva was not having the best of days with kicking, Skipper Kanishka took it upon himself and added the two extra points. (IC 25 – 10 ZC)
Isipathana did not waste much time in order to find another try as a clearance kick from Saad found Kalindu Shenal at the halfway mark, and Randimal, who acted as the next receiver, gave the ball out to Silva, and the winger had extra support to his right in the form of Gamage as the open side flanker who received the pass then ran around 45m, outrunning the Zahira defensive line with relative ease. Kanishka did not make any mistake as he added the two extra points. (IC 32 – 10 ZC)
Before the full time whistle, the Green Machine scored another try when Zahira lost possession just five metres away from the try line and then conceded an offside penalty. Pathana went for the scrum and all they had to do was to give out some passes. Avishka Hiran, the replacement fly half, managed to join the try scorers. He successfully converted his own try as well. (IC 39 – 10 ZC)
With this win, Isipathana College will face either St. Joseph’s or St. Peter’s at the Finals in a bid to defend their knockouts crown. Whoever their opponent might be, it will set up a rematch. If the Joes get the win, it will be a rematch of last year’s Final, while if the Peterites win, it will be a rematch from the league decider this year.
Isipathana College 39 (6T 3C 1P) beat Zahira College 10 (1T 1C 1P)
Player of the Match :- Nisaja Jayaweera (IC)
Points Breakdown :-
Isipathana College : Hashen Randimal 2T, Chamindu Chirath 1T, Iroshana Gamage 1T, Nisaja Jayaweera 1T, Avishka Hiran 1T 1C, Rinesh Silva 1P, Naveen Kanishka 2C
Zahira College : M. R. Mohamed 1T, Ahamed Saad 1C 1P