Royal secure Michael Gunarathne Trophy for another year

Dialog Schools Rugby League 2022


Defending League champions Royal College got back to their winning ways with a 20-08 win over arch-rivals S. Thomas’ College in their Dialog Schools Rugby League 2022 encounter held at the Royal Sports Complex on Saturday (16).

Two first-half tries from Kaveen Sasanga and Abdulla Yousuf helped Royal College take a 10-3 lead going into lemons.

The Thomians started off with an early try through Akila Perera in the second half. However, the Royalists managed to score another try through Sasanga and added another three-pointer through Nabil Yahiya to secure the win. With this defeat, S. Thomas’ chances of reaching the Super Round are gone, as they already have three losses in the league.

Major credit for the win should go to Royal scrum-half Hasnaka Higgoda and Vice-Captain Kaveen Sasanga. Sasanga scored the opening try of the game, but the all-important turnover was carried out by Higgoda before Sasanga stepped on the gas from the half way mark.

The hosts were probably kicking themselves for not killing off the game in the first half when S. Thomas’ were reduced to 14 men after Mohommad Hakeem was sent to the naughty chair. They could only manage a try scored by Yousuf, who was once again fed by Higgoda from the line out.

The Thomians were resilient in their defence, but their set pieces, especially the lineouts, were disastrous to say the least. It cost them dearly as they only managed a solitary penalty in the first half through Yehan Bulathsinghalage.

After S. Thomas’ were restored to 15, Royal College lost Buwanaka Senanayake, who pulled off a try saving tackle on Mahith Perera at the half hour mark. Perera was dancing his way through the field before Senanayake brought him down inside the 22m. Unfortunately, Senanayake’s tackle was deemed too high and he had to sit out for 7 minutes.

However, the Thomians failed to pounce on the advantage as the hosts put up a wall in front of their try line. The visitors maintained possession even beyond the 35 minutes as the game went on for an extra five minutes. During that time, Higgoda was sinbinned for off-side play, which meant that Royal was down to 14 at the beginning of the second half.

Half Time: Royal College 10 (2T) – S. Thomas’ College 03 (1P)

Early in the second half, the Thomians finally found their opening try through winger Akila Perera. Credit must be given to the Thomian forwards who did the bulk of the work before Perera found space out wide.

In the 49th minute, Jayod Perera was given the marching orders, which gave Royal College the opening they needed to seal the win. Nabil Yahiya immediately added three points, and a few minutes later Sasanga scored the second try of the day, his fifth of the season. Once again, it was Higgoda who identified the open spaces at the back and executed a kick which bounced in favour of Sasanga, as he ran all the way to score under the posts.

The visitors had enough time to string together a comeback, but the Royal defence was resilient as they held on despite losing Senanayake, who got red carded for dangerous play.

With this win, Royal College retained the Michael Gunaratne Trophy for another year, after winning it back from S. Thomas’ in 2017.

Full Time: Royal College 20 (3T, 1C, 1P) – S. Thomas’ College 08 (1T, 1P)

Point Scorers for Royal College

Kaveen Sasanga 2T, Abdulla Yousuf 1T, Nabil Yahiya 1P 1C

Point Scorers for S. Thomas’ College

Akila Perera 1T, Yehan Bulathisinghalage 1P