November 19, 2019
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    The season for giving gifts wrapped in partial belief

    December 20, 2018

    As many enjoy the Christmas cheer, rugby celebrates another remarkable season with the top team favourites very much in control.Kandy despite all the pre-season hype are still very much the team to beat.Havelocks, CR, Navy and CH certainly have their work cut out ...to outplay and out run the defending champions...Coach Lewke will certainly need prep time and bigger forwards to match their age and counter paths ....and different thinking to be a real force in Asia.For us Sri Lanka rugby hearts everything in Asia, realistically within our grasp.

    Sri Lanka’s U19 team showed plenty of promise in the build-up to the Asian championships. Unfortunately fact and fiction separate that dream in the middle as we just found out last weekend with the U19 championships in Taipei.Sri Lanka’s chances with their running game made them certainly contenders at the start but after playing the hosts they rapidly deteriorated and lost badly to Hong Kong.

    Our last game against Korea highlighted the lack of impact caused and a predictable shyness to tackle up front.We have to learn and adequate preparation for the right quality and skill that match Asia’s best. It should be the soul criteria in selections especially at youth level.

    Sri Lanka’s best chance and challenge in Asia is at this level ...there should be a given priority by professionals of Sri Lanka rugby.The club season remains solid despite continuous expert Ho-haaa..Expectantly having fits and starts by the contenders...especially Havelocks despite losing 11 players at the start of the season ...remain unbeaten till they played Kandy at the cauldron in Nittawella.

    If a team needed to show guts and courage they were the classic example in the best Havies tradition.Coach Martis and captain Niroshan must be happy for the team’s commitment, work rate and drive for the 80 mins in the middle.The Kandy-Havies game was easily the best seen over the last ten years.
    All you hear about the grand support in Kandy ...it’s true ...the intimidation and pressure on a visiting team certainly starts to show by the end of 65 mins and the raucous performance by Kandy for their fanatical faithful make it very difficult to survive.Consistency and in the last quarter by Kandy has broken every team so far ....Havelocks being the latest victims on Sunday..

    The defending champions remain unbeaten and coach Wijesinghe must be partly confident whatever happens in round 2.Remarkable to consider the brilliant form Tharindu Ratwatte and Sam Maduwantha has been enjoying so far.It is a remarkable fact that both kickers are lapping up classic attention for all their hard work and preparation…as ball players they are second to none and a great example of professionalism for all young players graduating from school....

    Ratwatte and Maduwantha are both from the hill capital and currently are the toast of Sri Lanka rugby with their accuracy and consistency.The exceptions separate the average from the remarkable.Players like Rudangamuwa for Kandy, Danushka Ranjan and skipper Richy plus Roshan Weeraratne and Khalhara make Kandy the toughest combination in club rugby ..For teams lining up against defending champions will always be a requirement to try and match the Kandy front forward 8..in the set and the line-up.

    Kandy are unstoppable with their ruck and maul game and have been able to grind the life out of all packs that played against ..to beat Kandy you need to break Kandy ...there’s nothing left to chance or luck and pressure the entire hinge of the results.From my calm deck chair trying to estimate Kandy’s performance away from home is challenging itself…can they maintain this stupendous form and work rate away from home...and outplay Havelocks, CR, CH and Navy to grab the league title of 2019 ...your guess is slightly better than mine, and the odds still sting enough to want speculation.

    Much has been said about Kandy’s professionalism over the last decade and we continue in the same vein ...with team performances at the league.Kandy have smashed opposition defenders with alarming regularity.Little wonder that they remain unbeaten and huge pride for the lions.For Havelocks the remarkable had turned around despite the lack of big impact players and mains.Riza and his educated boots still providing plenty for the park club to cheer about...For CR and CH, like I said last week have their own mountains to climb and plenty of work ahead if they are to be considered in the super league rounds ...CR’s Omalka Gunaratne providing maximum impact for his forward 8...CH& FC has skipper Yoshitha, Muthuthanthri, Sathya, Henry and Sasanka for impact on any given day. Unfortunately the big stars failing to deliver consistent results from match one has resulted in CH finding themselves No.5 rather than top two with a mountain to climb in round two.

    Maduwantha has rapidly carved himself a reputation as a reliable kicker and is beginning to add the much needed spark to CH’s performance.Let’s hope their match against Police SC set them up nicely for round two.This Christmas break would be perfect time for rest, recovery and rethinking strategy for round 2.With the tournament’s new super format teams get a second bite at the league title and more opportunity to become contenders, which is good news for fans and players alike.

    Sri Lanka Rugby needs quality, skill and instinct among top players to shine beyond our horizon.Rugby headquarters need to scrutinize the fundamental principles on which our system survives. I personally cannot disagree with the old principle that the governing body needs to invest and underwrite their stakeholder clubs so that we upgrade club teams to super rugby teams and give players and fans a chance to experience rugby at its highest given Sri Lanka’s long history.

    Logically it is not an impossible task, if, the right acumen is given the opportunity for the game and country to progress beyond its Asian boundaries.Japan will host the Rugby WC in 2019, and boast a club network of a thousand plus. Their national team is now ranked with the best. The time is ripe for us to stand up and be counted.

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