St. Peter’s College won the Dialog Rugby League 2023 following a lapse of 13 years as they managed to defeat holders Isipathana at home last weekend. Meanwhile, the Dialog Schools Knockout competition returns as the top 8 schools — minus Royal — battle it out for a second shot at glory.
St. Peter’s College
The unbeaten champions, SPC, had pretty much the season of their lives going through the campaign on cruise control.
Royal College made the 2023 Champions work in the first game of the season, making it pretty much ultimately the title decider and the game of the tournament.
As the saying goes, “Attack wins you matches, defence wins you titles” and it was the case this time as well.
St. Peter’s conceded 10 or more points just twice prior to the grand finale. Their defence played a mammoth role, and it continued to hold in the final as well, conceding just 17 points against a potent Pathana lineup.
There were questionable moments during the final. However, the overall take on the game was that the home team was head and shoulders above Isipathana and all others in the league as they marched through to their 5th Schools Rugby League title.
Royal’s season turned on its head with the surprise defeat to Trinity in the first leg of the Bradby, making the League title an almost impossible dream.
They bounced back in Colombo, defeating Trinity and Isipathana in consecutive weeks, winning the Bradby Shield and the Major Milroy Fernando Trophy to turn things around.
These wins, coupled with a barnstorming win on the final day against St. Anthony’s, saw them end second on the table, even though they were tied on 37-points each with Isipathana (The head-to-head battle was taken into count, handing Royal second place).
Having led the standings from day 1 to the start of the second round, Isipathana were cruising through and seemed to be unstoppable.
However, the lack of competitive matches in the 1st round could be the downfall for Isipathana as they could find no way through, first against Royal and against St. Peter’s in the Super Round.
They lacked experience on the field, and when Zumri missed out through injury, Rinesh’s wings seemed clipped, with him unable to carry the burden of taking his side forward alone. The forwards were shut down, and that meant the line was ineffective. They prey on quick balls, and once that outlet dried up, Pathana was found wanting.
Two defeats in as many weeks sealed their fate as they ended in 3rd place.
St. Anthony’s College
The surprise package, SACK were another team who all but booked their place in the Super Round at the end of week one, following their shock win against St. Joseph’s. Having said that, the Antonians had to fight week in and week out with a mid-table tussle in their group.
In the final week, the Josephians helped pave the way for their fellow Saints’ team to qualify. The Antonians did their part, and on the last day, a win against Thora at Pallekele sealed their progression.
The second round was one to forget, but a chance on the big stage will no doubt do a world of good for a school that has seen a steep decline through the turn of the decade.
Dialog Schools Rugby Knockouts 2023
QF 2 – 25th August, Zahira College v D.S. Senanayake College
Zahira College will have their work cut out if they are to topple high-flying DS Senanayake College.
The Donz were competitive for most of the League, however, a couple of defeats at the hands of Isipathana and St. Joseph’s saw them narrowly miss out on the Super Round.
An injury cloud over skipper Rajaratna and Umagiliyage saw them lose direction in their team’s quest for glory. However, they will be coming in with renewed ambition to qualify for the Semi-final of the knockouts.
QF 3 – 26th August, St. Anthony’s College v St. Joseph’s College
St. Joseph’s will no doubt be gunning for revenge but, most of all, a victory to book their ticket to the Semi-final.
The Antonians spoiled the party for the Josephians on the opening day of the season and will be aiming to do the same as the two teams meet at the Park.
QF 4 – 27th August, St. Peter’s College v Trinity College
Will the league winners be hungover from their victory, or will they be gunning down the double? With Sanath Martis at the helm, SPC will not rest on their laurels, but a Trinity team, which managed to pull a surprise over Royal in the first leg, will be aiming to upset the odds as they battle it out in the fourth and final quarter-final.
Catch all the LIVE action from the knockouts on Sri Lanka’s No. 1 Sports Hub ThePapare.com.